I feel, festive time is a good time to experiment a little and try out some interesting delicacies from regions other than those we are native of or living in. This goes with the spirit somehow and also adds variety to the everyday fare that one gets bored of eating. Festivities and good food anyway go hand in hand. There is no doubt about that. Lets just make them less ‘usual’ and more fun.
I grew up in a small city: Gwalior (not in a metro – Delhi – where I now live) and I remember how much I’d look forward to the platefuls of home made delicacies (covered nicely with a lacy, embroidered cloth) that would come over from family and friends’ houses during Diwali time. We’d get to eat modak from Orissa, puran poli or narali bhat from Maharashtra, mishti dahi or rosgullas from Kolkata… and many more… while my mum would send back kheer or suji halwa laden with dry fruits that always drew ooh’s and aah’s from everyone.
Plus we’d also get to eat umpteen traditional dishes during Diwali dinners. How delightful those meals were! I still remember those days and that taste, also the anticipation that kept us children happy and excited all through the festive season. Now of course packed dabbas from the halwais come as Diwali wishes – and mostly everyone sticks to the tried and tested same few (laddoos pinnis, patisas…). Or imported chocolates and cookies. Why? Diwali is after all a mithai festival…! Most get passed on. How many rosgullas or ladoos can one eat after all!
I have been missing that childhood taste and excitement for a while now, so this year I decided to tackle that itch by trying to make shrikhand at home. It came out terrible (but that’s just me). So I ordered it from a home chef I know who makes it and dug into it happily. This experiment might not have worked, but I am not someone who gives up easily.
Another interesting dish I tried out recently – Pongal from Tamil Nadu turned out well and our family found an alternative super delicious, satisfying, low fat, hot breakfast, that is very quick to cook too. And at mere 300 calories per serving, with rice and moong dal delivering a healthy combination of carbohydrates and proteins and the good fat in the cashews and the tempering adding satiety and crunch, this dish is a winner health wise too. I usually pair a cup of curd or a glass of buttermilk with it to add the necessary calcium and boost the protein content.
Try it, Pongal recipe is simple to make:
Dry roast 50g of rice and 30g of moong dal (green gram). Add 400ml water, cover and cook till done. Meanwhile, make a tadka (tempering) of cumin seeds, black peppercorns, curry leaves, ginger and garlic, with a few cashew nuts, heated for a minute or so in a teaspoon of ghee. Pour over the rice and dal, season to taste and stir in fresh curry leaves.
I also tried out bajre ki khichri with chach, and one sweet I did get right was bhutta ki kees. This milk and corn-based light breakfast is tastier than most cornflakes, and is actually a weight control/loss option, with a satisfying 12g protein and 170 calories per serving. Soon I’ll begin tackling other mithais and savories on my childhood recall list… those that I find too complicated, I will just try to order in. Enough of packed dabbas. Really!
Trust me, going regional is the way to taste and health both.
Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan