Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Shravan Recipes a new twist to tradition)

Recipes for Shravan – Fasting recipes

Shravan is here. The Hindu religious month of fasting. Sometimes the cycle of life amazes me. It seems like just yesterday that I was preparing to go on a sabbatical o have my daughter. The last food styling shoot I did before I went on leave was one for Shravan recipes for mE magazine. The story had a twist however; I used traditional, legal foods to cook up new recipes that were more innovative and far, far more balanced nutritionally than traditional ones that are heavy on Carbohydrates. The results were interesting to say the least…

The most prevalent method of fasting in the Hindu religion is that of phal aahar. Charaka and Sushruta authors of the Ayurvedas classified edible plants into separate groups and the Phala varga is that of fruit. The word Phala when combined with ahaar (meaning food or diet) comes to mean a diet of fruit. This was the traditional diet ascribed to ascetic’s hermits and householders who were fasting. However, with time this has grown to encompass in a larger sense all foods not raised with a plow or cultivated in contrast to “anna” or cultivated foods. There is no community hat is more creative with its food than the Gujarati community. Look at what they can do with chickpea flour alone!

Their innovation and creativity has led to an entire mélange of dishes and menus for fasting periods. Alternatives to almost all normal dishes included in a normal meal were designed and fasting days came to be regarded as feasting days! In fact I remember the whole family looking forward to the day of Janmashtami (the day of Lord Krishna’s birth) in the month of Shravana. This was the one day when the entire household observed a’ fast’. His meant we ate fasting food.
I remember coming home from school and sitting down to a most delicious meal of Puri, aloo, Kadhi and rice! Now this might sound surprising to the uninitiated but it really is not. The Upvas meal that I recall, was a full Thali. , There was a Kadhi made of made up of Yoghurt thickened with Shingare ka atta or flour made from Water Chestnuts, The vegetable would usually be a spicy potato subzi, Pooris would be made from Rajgeera flour and in the place of rice there would be Samwat ke chaawal or Parsai ke chaawal. There would also be a Khandvi made from Shingare ka atta or a potato pattice stuffed with coconut and coriander or crushed peanut. Dessert would be a kheer made from Sweet potato.

What is 'allowed' during a fast and what is not is mostly a question of perspective and interpretation. These being vegetarian communities, non vegetarian food does not factor into the diet at all but 'Illegal' foods proscribed in Shravan include; cultivated grain, including rice and wheat in all forms, maize, pulses and lentils, root vegetables such as radish, onion and garlic, all salt other than rock salt, spices considered 'heaty or warming to the system' such as asafetida, red chillies, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds. Illegal foods also include other heaty ore warming ingredients such as jaiggery, sesame, betel leaves and vegetable oil. Any leftovers from a prior meal or spoilt food are also proscribed. They are believed to be either tamasic (heaty) and not to be consumed on the day of a fast.

'Legal' foods on the other hand include milk, select milk products like yogurt, butter milk, butter and ghee (not cheese which is considered spoilt). Vegetables include gourds like the Dudhi and Parval, Root vegetables like Potato, Suran, Ratalu Kand), Sweet Potato, Arbi and spices like the Green chilli, Coriander, ginger, Dried ginger, (sonth), Lemon, Fruit, Cumin, dried fruit and nuts, sago, (tapica, sabudana), rock salt, (sendha namak), sugar, rock sugar (misri), black pepper, clove, cardomom, rajgeera, coconut, peanut, Shingara, Buckwheat, Arrowroot. Whatever their origins, all of the items of it is harvested from existing sources rather than cultivated. Just goes to show how innovative one can get in the search for flavor! On doing a little research I found out that a foodgrain called Shyamaka also known as Apasthamba WAS in fact allowed to ascetics.

Happy feasting, I mean fasting and do let me know what you think…

Almond and Coconut milk soup

Singhare ka Atta is flour made from Waterchestnuts. Water chestnuts have been a part of the culinary annals of India for eons. This flour qualifies as a fast ingredient because the Shigara occurs naturally and is harvested when in season. About 2/3 of the plant floats just beneath the water surface, with only its upper leaves floating on the surface, it has white flowers that submerge after pollination to facilitate fruit formation. The plant bears edible nuts in hard-shelled fruits which resemble the head of a water buffalo with two large curved horns hence the name Shingara and it is these nuts that are made into flour that is used as a staple during fasts, to make chapattis, paranthas, sweets vadas and also as a binder or thickening agent.

Time 25 mins serves 4
1 tbsp Shingara atta
2 green chillies sliced
½ c almonds blended to a paste
250 ml coconut milk
250 ml water
2 tbsp oil
Rock or Black salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the, chillies and splutter, add Shingara Atta and stir in well. Add coconut milk, almond paste, water and salt. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 mins, Taste, adjust seasoning and serve hot with a little green chilli on the side.

Minted Sago salad
Time 1 hour Serves four
I cup mint
2 green chillies
1 cup chaas (buttermilk)
½ cup sago
1 cup assorted fruit (citrus fruit like grapefruit or orange, pineapple etc)
½ cup pomegranate
Handful raisins
Rock or Black salt to taste

Place mint, salt buttermilk and chillies in blender and blend well. Transfer this to a bowl, add sago and allow to stand for an hour. After and hour, steam sago lightly and transfer to bowl, allow to cool. Add fruit and raisins toss well and serve.

Baked Potato with Coriander salsa
Time taken: 30 mins. Serves: 4
½ kg potatoes, boiled with very little water peeled and cut into thick slices
½ cup cream
½ cup toasted peanut
1-2 green chilies
1 tsp oil
Black salt to taste

For Coriander Salsa

Whiz I cup coriander, 1 tsp raisins, 1 green chilli, juice of one lemon and a little black salt in the blender. Set aside.

Place chillies salt and toasted peanut in a blender and process to a crumbly paste. Transfer to a bowl, add cream and mix well. Add salt and stir in well. Set aside. Brush a baking dish with oil. Spread peanut mix on the bottom and layer potatoes over. Top with remaining peanut mixture and bake until moisture has completely evaporated. Serve hot, topped with coriander salsa.

Saffron Sama “Risotto”
Morio, Veru Arisi, Vari che Tandul Sama or Khodri is a wild grain which is ground into flour. The seeds are sun-dried, then threshed to remove the husks. When roughly ground it is cooked like rice, in salted water. The fact that is found wild and harvested and also considered a 'cool' food makes it a viable choice ion fasting days.

Time 30 mins Serves 4
4 cups chaas (buttermilk)
3 tbsp ghee 1 c Sama or Vari che Tadul
1/2 tsp saffron strands (dissolved in 1/2 cup hot milk) 1 tbsp butter 1/3 cup cream Black salt to taste
1 c cooked grated purple yam
Dry fruit for garnish
In a medium saucepan bring chaas a slow, steady simmer. In a large heavy 4-quart pan over medium heat, melt ghee and add rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated. Add the hot chaas (1/2 cup at a time), stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, reserving about 1/4 cup to add at the end. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. When the sama is almost done dissolved saffron. Stir in cream, purle yam and salt and stir well to combine. Transfer to warmed serving plates and serve immediately garnished with dry fruit.

Pomegranate squares
This is my twist on my nani’s traditional recipe for Tapkhir jo halvo. The Pomegranate gives it a lovely color.

1 c arrowroot flour 1 ¼ c sugar 2.5 c water
½ c pomegranate juice 2-3 tsp ghee
4-5 pistachios flaked

Mix 1 1/2 cups of water, pomegranate juice and arrowroot flour and set aside. In another pan, bring the remaining water and sugar to a boil. When melted completely, add the arrowroot mix and stir well. When it starts to thicken, add the ghee and pistachio flakes and stir well. Allow to thicken some more (It will start to leave the sides of the pan). Pour into a thali, allow to cool and set. Cut into diamonds or squares, roll in powdered sugar and serve.

GYAN and Links

The collage above is from pictures for the shoot Courtesy Bharat Bhirangi and Mrigank Sharma (www.indiasutra.com). My first story on Shravan with traditional recipes is here. Excerpts on where to find Faral food in Mumbai from an article I did on the subject are here.
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Anisheetu said...

Thats really lovely way to feasting... i mean fasting :) I loved the twists you have given to all the fasting items traditionally prepared...

Sunshinemom said...

I have shingade ka atta and am starting on a detox diet soon that requires soups to be taken. Am definitely trying this one.

madhavi said...

Seeing the mint sago salad combo for the first time. sounds good.