Say ‘Yum’ to These Reinvented but ‘Desi’ Dishes!
Have you ever imagined yourself recreating a classic that your mum used to prepare once upon a time? Or, wondered what would it take to revisit a traditional recipe and turn it into something modern?
Traditions never get old and neither do memories. What is more exciting is when traditions get translated into something new almost like a fresh start.
As the country celebrates the harvest festivals – Gudi Padwa, Vishu, Rongali Bihu, Puthandu, Poila Baisakh, Baisakhi and Pana Sankranti – we got cracking on giving a twist to some classic recipes. Follow some of our favourite food bloggers, cookbook authors and culinary experts as they whip up some drool-worthy dishes for you this festive season.
There’s a pudding made with the Bengali classic, shondesh and a quintessentially south Indian vada that could be made into falafels. Take your pick!
Also Read : B-town wishes fans Happy Baisakhi,Puthandu
1. Amrakhand Fool for 'Gudi Padwa' (Maharashtra)
Every Gudi Padwa, my mum procures her malai chakka from Samant Brothers or Bedekars in Mumbai to make the popular Marathi treat, shrikhand. We like ours ravaal or grainy and tangy-sweet, not syrupy, with the right balance of nutmeg and saffron. Before Amma mixes the spices in, she removes some of the churned chakka-sugar mixture and adds mango pulp to it to make amrakhand. Sometimes, when I'm hosting a non-traditional lunch, I make this Amrakhand Fool - it is light, takes no time, and appeals to all ages.
To make the Amrakhand Fool, whip 1 cup of cold whipping cream (dairy or soy) into soft peaks.
Remove three fourths of the whipped cream into a separate bowl and save for later. In the bowl that now has the one fourths of the whipping cream, add 1/2 cup amrakhand (at room temperature) and whip to combine.
Now add the remaining three fourths of the whipping cream to this mixture in batches, folding each batch gently to maintain volume.
At the bottom of a Martini glass, spoon some fresh Alphonso mango pulp. Pipe or spoon the whipped amrakhand cream next and top with some freshly chopped mango. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint or pistachio flakes. Serve cool.
2. Meethe Chawal For Baisakhi (Punjab)
My memories of Baisakhi is of the Baisakhi mela where we’d participate in gidda wearing the typical patiala salwar kameez. When it comes to food, we always ate the langar at the gurudwara where there would be maa di daal, missi roti and kadha prashad. Back at home, my mom always makes meethe chawal on the day.
In Mumbai, I prepare a tweaked version inspired by a Thai Mango Sticky Rice. The recipe is same as hers except that I add 1 tablespoon of coconut milk and serve it with the season’s best Alphonso mangoes.
Click here for recipe
3. Vegan Coconut Gelato for Vishu (Kerala)
For most of us, Vishu brings back memories of being woken up early and engaging in the day’s festivities. I remember being led with my eyes closed to the see the bright yellow flower vishukani, bursting firecrackers, receiving gift money and eating sadya or the festive lunch.
My favourite things to eat were the sharkaravaratti or thick banana chips coated with ginger and jaggery, and the pradhaman or payasam made with jaggery and coconut milk. With summers getting hotter, it is a good time to add something new and a little different from the old traditions.
My Vegan Coconut Gelato is a fantastic dessert that centres around one of the most important ingredients in Kerala cuisine - coconut. Since there are no eggs in it, you can make this keeping with the vegetarian tradition of the festival.
Click for the recipe.
4. Shondesh Pudding for Poila Baisakh (Bengal)
Growing up, the excitement of new clothes, meeting family and eating homemade sweets took precedence on Poila Baisakh or the first day of the Bengali new year. From traditional sweets to their own fancy creations, mishti was made at home by my grandmothers who were expert sweet-makers.
I vividly remember watching their culinary creations come to life - a variety of pithes, malpuas, notun gurer payesh and different types of shondesh. Shondesh made with milk, sugar and homemade cottage cheese took their own shapes and fillings as the grand dames desired. I also inherited a love for the caramel custard pudding, a classic at the colonial clubs of Kolkata.
Later in life, when I started experimenting and rediscovering my childhood through food, I created Shondesh Pudding. It is the familiar caramel custard pudding where the custard has a filling of shredded chena.
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5. Garbanzo Berries Breakfast Bowl for Pana Sankranti (Odisha)
Back home in Odisha, Pana Sankranti or the new year marks the onset of summer. It is quite amazing how the change in season influences what we eat during the festival. I still remember watching my mother tirelessly extracting the pulp of wood apple or bael to make Bela Pana, an excellent summer coolant always prepared on the occasion.
She’d also make Chatua - roasted gram flour mixed with dry fruits, coconut, raw mangoes and jaggery to offer to the Gods. Those childhood memories beckon me to prepare something in my London home. It’s hard to find wood apple here, but roasted gram flour is easily available.
I make a Garbanzo Berries Breakfast Bowl with garbanzo flour or chickpea flour, seasonal berries and fruits. It screams nutrition and reminds me of the chatua that my mother used to make.
6. Honey Sesame Pork for Rongali Bihu (Assam)
Rongali Bihu brings back memories of my paternal grandfather’s village in Assam, which is synonymous with fresh produce. A jolpan or breakfast featuring an array of sweets and dishes was special since it was the first meal of the new year. In our family, Bihu is incomplete without the best fish of the day cooked in a black sesame seed paste called Til Diya Maas.
Even today when I cook this warm and nutty dish, it transports me back to times spent over shared platters forging kinship and family traditions. Black sesame plays an indispensable role in Assamese cuisine and is used commonly to make sweets as well as meats.
Since pork is widely cooked and eaten, this Honey Sesame Pork works wonders. If you don’t have black sesame handy, use regular sesame seeds and oil to prepare this simple dish.
7. Lentils Masala Mint Fritters for Puthandu (Tamil Nadu)
The Tamil new year is a celebration of all good things. My mum woke up early in the morning to prepare a feast of sorts for the traditional pooja. A menu comprising of obbat, vadas, mango rice, seven different vegetable sambhars, three dry dishes and kheer was normal.
After the pooja when we sat down to eat, I’d directly grab the crispy vadas. To this my mum would say, “have obbat, sweet first”. Vadas are quintessentially festive and for a reason. As I ate them, they would come back like a pot of never-ending gold.
In the US where I am settled, I make these Lentils Masala Mint Fritters, which are as good as falafels and can be stuffed into tacos.
(Rituparna Roy is a Mumbai-based journalist who writes about food culture, recipes and cookbooks. She spends her free time baking, watching Netflix and fussing over her bougainvilleas.)