Diwali, the festival of lights brings with it joy, prosperity and of course the impromptu get-togethers, cards parties and gift-bearing visits from near and dear.
For as long as I can remember, come fall, and my grandmother would begin her shopping to get all the requisites to prep the house for Diwali. Menus for the entire week leading up to Diwali were meticulously planned and prepared for beforehand. And for weeks, you could smell the sweet scent of roasted gram flour and sugar the second you entered the house.
The tradition and preparation continue to this day. Only this time, I'm the one running around to set the menus and get things organized. The other notable change in the tradition is that of the menu...
No, the Besan ke ladoos continue to be a festive staple (I don't wish to be disowned by my grandmother!). But the focus has shifted (quite considerably) from heavy-duty Indian curries to easy on-the-go food that you can eat without taking your eyes off the poker and flash tables.
To clarify, 'on-the-go doesn't mean light and under-filling; on the contrary, on–the–go foods can be super indulgent and highly satisfying too; it just depends on what you make!
But before I get to share my favourite festive recipe, here are a few tips I've picked up from planning my past few "Diwali-scenes":
1. Be mindful of who you are entertaining. The festivities bring all age groups together, so if your guest list entails seniors and youngsters, be careful to plan your menu accordingly. Too many spicy dishes and the elders will be uncomfortable, too much-fried food, and the youngsters will cringe. So it is best to keep a mix of non-fried and fried finger foods on the menu.
2. Take it easy. This is a tip; most ladies forget when they are entertaining guests. They plan a super indulgent (read 'complex') menu that needs their utmost attention and hence can seldom leave the kitchen to sit with their guests. Keep the menus light and easy to prepare so that you too can be with your guests and enjoy yourself. Snacks like open toasts that can be prepared beforehand and grilled instantly, work really well. Plus everyone loves them!
3. Don't forget the flavour profiles. A successful menu must have a little bit of every kind of flavour - savoury, sweet and sour. Also- chaat counts as sour, whatever its ingredients, maybe fruit or papdi.
4. Don’t forget the beverages. Beverages are the most underappreciated part of the menu! One dedicated drink- and your menu is gold (sorry, tea, coffee, and soft drinks don't count!). It took me growing up to fully appreciate the hard work that goes into making a delicious Aam Panna or homemade ginger-ale.
Now coming to my go-to recipes for Diwali. This recipe has been passed down three generations in my family! This make and store snack is generally had at tea time, but I haven't hosted a single dinner where my guests haven't asked for this snack when they're busy setting the table for a serious session of cards. My grandmother calls it "Bhuna", but its marketed variety is called Indian mixture.
If you've ever had to take recipes from an elder in the family, you'd know that they tend to rely more on their senses (what they call 'andaza’) as opposed to exact measures of ingredients given in most recipe books. Cooking novices don’t have ‘andaza' (trust me, I've been cooking my meals for more than a decade, and that "sense" still eludes me!). Ergo, here's exactly what you need to make my Punjabi grandmother's famous "Bhuna" (which ironically means 'roasted' in Hindi, but primarily consists of fried stuff).
Here's what you need to make this crispy deliciousness
1/3 cup of Gram (chane)
2 cups of Flattened Rice (chivda)
1/3 cup of Peanuts
1cup Ready to fry Corn Flakes (fry-able) and dry
2 cups of puffed rice murmura (oven for 5mins to remo)
For the tadka
1 tablespoon of Mustard oil
14 curry leaves
¼ teaspoon of asafoetida (hing)
½ teaspoon of turmeric (Haldi)
5pcs of dried red chilli whole (sabut lal mirch)
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds (rai)
1/3 teaspoon black mustard seeds (Sarson)
For the seasoning
½ teaspoon of dried mango powder (amchoor)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon of garam masala
¼ teaspoon of red chili (degi mirch)
1/2 teaspoon of chaat masala
Dash of sugar
In a large pan, deep fry the batch of flattened rice, cornflakes, chana and then peanuts. Place them on blotting paper to dry the excess oil. Keep them aside.
As the different ingredients are frying, prepare the seasoning in a small bowl by adding the amchoor, salt, garam masala, degi mirch, chaat masala and sugar.
Place the murmure or the puffed rice in a large oven tray and allow them to heat up in the oven for 5 minutes (only enough to remove its staleness).
To prepare the tadka, in a large pan, heat the mustard oil. When hot, add to it the curry leaves and heeng; after the heeng splatters, add the turmeric, rai, sarson and sabut lal mirch.
When tempered, first add the oven-roasted murmura and mix till they are crispy.
Add the fried ingredients one at a time. In between, add the seasoning too and keep mixing till the seasoning has covered all the ingredients.
Allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
That's it! Store in an airtight box and enjoy whenever you feel like it!
Caution: this snack is purely addictive. Don't blame us if your guests ask you to make it every time! You've been warned.
Are there any festival specific recipes that have been passed down from generations in your family too? Please share them with us. We'd love to try them!