I know its diwali, cant feel the pulse of it yet. I wonder why. i look forward to Diwali mostly because I love the oil lamps. I eagerly look forward to this time of the year to take them off the attic, wash and dry them, make wicks of cotton and light them. the beauty of a flickering gentle light is something to behold….This year with the recent floods in Andhra Pradesh and karnantaka, looks like everyone is feeling sombre. Its sad to see the plight of the people who have lost everything. Relief work isn’t reaching the ones who need it and whatever efforts are being made, aren’t adequate. The stories of donated clothes, most of them unusable, food being dumped or thrown at the displaced people and little or no medical aid reaching them dominate the newspapers. In the midst of all of this, one wonders what kind of celebrations we will have. Should we move on and forget, or be prudent with our festivities and donate what we would have otherwise blown up? I know if I was affected, I would be hoping that people open up their hearts and purses to help in whatever way they can.
K seems to have lost interest and he almost always urges me to treat the festival as yet another day. He cant understand why one needs to be / do something extra special just because its a festival or an occasion. I have stopped trying to reason with him!! I try as best as I can to make something special with as less effort as I can manage!! Am sharing some simple festive fare that I made for dasera last month. As I keep on saying here, I loathe to cook stuff that involves several steps of cooking and elaborate preparation. There’s nothing worse than slaving so much to do something and not having the energy to enjoy it. So here’s my quick fix festive cooking. All done in less than an hour, cant get better than this!
I made gutti vankaya kura. The ultimate Andhra vegetarian celebration dish. The recipe is from Sailu and I didn’t make any changes. There are many recipes for gutti vankaya and I have tried a few, I love this one, it’s never failed me and each time I make it, I can’t even wrangle a picture because everyone wants to polish it off before I can brandish my camera.
The second dish is a potato version of Sanjeev Kapoor’s mutton urndai kuzhambu which translates into mutton kofta curry. This is a south Indian spicy curry and I just swapped the meat ball koftas for boiled potatoes and reduce the quantity of spices to 2/3 of the original recipe. This too is a regular item I make when I am entertaining because the flavours are awesome and it pairs up fabulously with pulavs and other flavoured rice dishes.
The rice is what we call baghara rice. It translates into tempered rice. And though it sounds odd, it has the most fantastic flavour of the whole spices it is cooked with. No vegetable additions to distract you from savouring the rice as it is!
So what are you doing for Diwali? We planned a nice cards party for tonight but called it off last minute. The phirni is already sitting in the fridge, so come and dip in if you are around this side of the world. Also sitting on the counter is a not yet frosted sinister chocolate cake that i made earlier for Aunty E.
All those who are celebrating, have a wonderful and safe Diwali. May you always enjoy the love that surrounds you.
Now for the rice recipe.
Baghara Khana/ Rice (Spiced pulav) – to serve 4
2 Tbsp ghee
2 whole bay leaves, 5-6 cloves, 5-6 cardamoms, 2-3 one inch pieces of cinnamon, 1 tsp shahi jeera (called royal cumin or black cumin, an Indian grocer should have it, 2 star anise
½ cup finely sliced onions
2-3 slit green chillies
10-15 mint leaves
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 cups basmati rice (I used regular sona masuri), washed and soaked in 4 cups of water for 10-15 minutes
Salt to taste
In a pressure cooker pan, heat the ghee and fry the whole spices for 30 seconds till aromatic. Make sure they do not burn, there’s nothing worse than burnt spices to ruin the delicate flavours of this preparation. Add the sliced onions and green chillies and fry till the onions are just turning golden brown, add the ginger garlic paste and fry till the raw smell disappears. Drain the rice and add to the pan. On a medium flame, fry till the rice turns opaque. Ensure you don’t overdo the stirring bit, cos the grains of rice will break. So gentle is how we do this! Add the salt, mint leaves, 3 cups of hot water and stir gently. Cover with the lid and place the whistle and cook for one whistle, lower the flame and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat, let the pressure release. Open and gently fluff with a fork. Serve with gutti vankaya Kura, potato version of mutton urundai kuzhambu and raitha.