Festive season in India is just starting which means a lot of get-togethers, small parties, large celebrations etc are on cards and if you love planning a get-together like I do, the first thing which crosses my mind is, what should we eat? 😀 It has to be something indulgent and delicious, something which everyone loves and if the food is to be made on an auspicious day then it has to be vegetarian. The food prepared on an auspicious day is usually served in a Puja thali, thal, puja naivedya which describes the festive platter – an entire vegetarian spread made usually on festive occasions offered with prayers to the deities and also served to friends and families.
On any given day an Indian household will prepare meals consisting of roti i.e. the flatbread, rice, dal i.e. the lentil soup and one vegetarian dish called subji – it is either in gravy form or in a drier form. Sometimes, this vegetarian subji is accompanied by or substituted by a meat or fish variant. This is the daily meal in any Indian household. However, this changes during festive occasion. The number of dishes made are increased, there are fritters included in the platter and then there are the traditional sweet dishes.
All the elements of the platter are such that they include all 6 tastes – sweet, sour, salty, astringent, pungent and bitter as recommended by Ayurveda. The balance of these 6 tastes is essential to maintain the Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – the elements of movement, fire and water in the body.
Till recent times, I would merely participate in helping the preparations of such festive platters and had never really made the whole spread from scratch myself. I however got a chance to cook this spread after my wedding when I moved to Chicago and wanted to celebrate Indian festivals here with as much as authenticity as possible. Also a lot of friends asked for these recipes, so i’m going to share with you all a few recipes for vegetarian and festive food, which you can make with ease at home and heres the bonus – they work well in winters i.e. they help provide your body the added nourishment which the cold weather calls for!! Here’s the first one up –
CHOLE – chickpeas cooked in onion and tomato based gravy
This one is my favorite vegetarian gravy. I use the ready spice mix provided by Everest for cooking this and you can easily get that on Amazon. You can prep the chickpeas by soaking them in water overnight and boiling them / pressure cooking them till done.Alternatively, you can also use the canned chickpeas available in supermarkets (make sure you drain them well and give them a wash before using, that will remove the excess sodium). This is a well favored dish in Indian get-togethers and I remember my mum making them for all the guests during our diwali celebrations. It can be paired with deep fried puris or bhature, but I wanted to avoid deep frying (I fear the oil splatter 😛 ) so I decided to go with simple and easy to make rotis. I’ve made these with Ghee in order to add some goodness and additional taste to the dish. You can read more about the benefits of ghee in my previous post here. So this is how I went about with it –
- 2 cups Chickpeas – soaked and cooked
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 tomato finely chopped
- 1 cup tomato paste (if you want a lot of gravy)
- Everest Chole Masala
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- ½ tsp each of cumin and caraway seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp Ghee
- In a deep pan or kadhai/ wok heat ghee and add the bay leaf
- Temper with cumin and caraway seeds and add ginger garlic paste Saute till the raw smell disappears.
- Add the finely chopped onions and saute till the onions are soft
- Add 2 tbsp Everest Chole masala and cook this on medium flame till the oil separates
- Add in the tomato cubes, tomato paste and salt to taste and cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium flame till a rich gravy is formed
- Finally stir in the cooked chick-peas and simmer this for another 10 minutes till the chickpeas soak up all the gravy.