Navratri thali – Feasting while fasting!
By Vaishali Sharda, contributor
Spring or Chaitra Navratri is the lesser known of the two Navratris that are celebrated in India. In the northern part of the country, specifically Punjab, where I grew up – spring Navratri brings a sense of celebration and fun to the end of dreary and cold winter – when days are short and sunshine eludes you. Growing up, I watched my mom light the lamp and do the prayers in front of goddess Durga like clockwork, twice a day and then on the seventh day everybody would fast and feast on traditional Navratri foods at the end of the day. As ironic as it sounds, all fasting days end in a feast with sunset. As kids, that was the most exciting part of the festival. And of course, kanjkein or kanya pujan on the eigth day (Ashtami) which would involve yummy halva, poori, dry brown chana masala and a lot of gifts.
In India they say when two people get married, it’s not their union but also a marriage of two families; two cultures and their rituals. This is so true in our case. Though I did not get married into a culture or religion that was too different from what I grew up with, still there are so many nuances that change and that you follow according to your in-laws family. It is beautiful what you learn and adapt as you become a part of a new family.
My mother-in-law cooked the fasting food differently, did the prayers a little different and also did kanya poojan on the ninth day (navmi) unlike my family. I have, over time, incorporated foods and rituals into my own little family and hope that as our kids are growing up they are observing and soaking in all the beauties that our rich culture has to offer.
Living away from the homeland, I have adapted our fasting foods to whatever is available locally. I normally make roti or flatbread with samo flour (swang ka atta) which I have found to be available at most Indian stores. You can also use kuttu (buckwheat flour) or singhade ka atta (water chestnut flour) to make the rotis using the exact same recipe. I serve the roti with aloo tamatar ki subzi – which is a curry of potatoes cooked in a tomato-based broth and a salad of radishes and green chilis.
Here are the recipes for you.
2 cups Samo flour
1 potato boiled (big), coarsely grated
(use the biggest grate size on your box grater)
1 cup daikon, grated and squeezed
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch red chili powder
Warm water, as needed to knead the dough
Ghee for pan frying
For Aloo Tamatar ki Sabzi
1 tablespoon ghee
3 large potatoes, boiled
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 green chili
1 teaspoon cumin seed
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon coriander powder
Salt to taste
1 bunch radishes, washed and grated
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice, or to taste
Salt and black pepper
To make roti
In a wide and shallow mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, red chili powder and mix till combined. Add the grated potato and daikon along with green chili. Mix. The moisture in the potatoes and daikon will help the flour come together. Add warm water 1 tablespoon at a time to make a stiff dough.
- Set a cast-iron skillet or tava on medium-high heat. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter where you are going to roll the rotis.
- Spread few drops oil or water on the plastic wrap. Grease your hands and take a piece of the roti dough that you have prepared, a little bit bigger than a golf ball and form it into a smooth ball.
- Lay the ball on the plastic lined countertop and slightly flatten it with the palm of your hand.
- Now lay another piece of plastic wrap on top and roll the roti using a rolling-pin. This roti has to be rolled a little bit thicker than the normal chappati or roti that you would make, almost like a parantha.
- Carefully remove the top plastic, and pinch together any cracks that might have appeared in the roti while rolling. Spread about a teaspoon of ghee to the skillet, lower the heat to medium-low, and carefully transfer the roti to the skillet. Cook for 30-40 seconds and then carefully flip using a flat spatula.
- Add ghee around the edges and let the roti cook for another minute or so.
- Flip one more time, apply ghee on the surface and then flip again.
- Apply ghee on the surface that is on top now and flip again. After 15 seconds, remove and keep warm while you continue working on rest of the dough.
To make aloo tamatar ki sabzi
- Blend together the tomatoes, ginger and green chili in a blender until smooth. Set a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium-high heat and add ghee.
- Once the ghee is melted, add cumin seeds and wait for them to splutter.
- Now add the blended tomato puree, all the spice powders and let it cook for 8-10 minutes medium-low heat till the moisture evaporates and tiny drops of ghee can be seen on the edges of the masala.
- While the masala is bhooning, mash the potatoes into chunky pieces with your hands or cut with a fork. I prefer not to cut the potatoes with a knife for this, as the loose starchy bits of potato and the rugged edges add a beautiful consistency to the curry. Feel free to chop the potatoes with a knife if that makes you happy.
- Add the potatoes to the masala along with as much water as you desire for the consistency f your liking. As the curry boils, it will become thicker.Add salt, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.
To make radish salad
Mix everything and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
- A gallon size ziplock bag works great instead of plastic wrap for rolling the rotis. Cut two edges so that it opens up like a book. Grease the inner surfaces and roll the roti between them.
- If a non-stick skillet is your thing, feel free to use it for making rotis. It is definitely easier.
- Option: peel radishes if preferred
Morea About the Author
Vaishali Sharda – Made in India. Lover of family, life, food, friends, and American football. Mommy to two, water resources researcher and a home cook extraordinaire. She also blogs at www.kitchendocs.com
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