India is a land of many festivals, and the fervor for each of these festivals is one of the things that make our country so unique and attractive to the rest of the world.
The festival of Navratri is a nine-day celebration of worshiping feminine divinity in the form of Goddess Durga. The nine auspicious days on Navratri are welcomed twice a year by devotees all across the country. The first Navratri arrives at the start of the Spring season, i.e usually in March. Of the nine days, Ashtami, the eighth day and Navami, the ninth and final day, are very important and auspicious. On these days, there is a ritual to invite young girls of the family or from the neighborhood to one’s house for a meal as they are considered as mortal forms of the Goddess herself .
The traditional food is first offered to the idol of Goddess Durga and then served to all the little guests. They are also given presents in form of money, or feminine gifts like bangles or a scarf. The Pooja ends with taking blessings from these girls in form of a pat on the back or placing the palm on the head.
As an adult, I am not sure if I sincerely believe in all of this whole-heartedly, but one heart-felt feeling about Navratri that no one can take away from me is the fond memories of celebrating this festival as a kid. Sigh, those were the days!
One day prior to the festival, all of the neighborhood aunties would call up our Mums to invite us to their respective homes for pooja the following day at an allotted time. Mum would wake us up early morning and after getting ready, all of us kids would collect at the gate of our multi-story and begin our house-hopping to be part of the festive gathering at multiple houses. We would go to each house and be treated like celebrities. They would serve us food, tie religious threads on our wrists and best of all, give us various gifts which we would safely tuck-in our little pouches, before strolling to the next house like queens! I mean, we would be walking on the street in a group and these stranger aunties would beckon us from their windows to invite us for pooja at their home to complete a mandatory figure of at least 9 girls. I don’t remember if we went to them lol, but those were two days per Navratri, when being a girl child was a big deal in India.
I do not celebrate Navratri in my house here in Dublin but almost always nostalgically prepare the traditional food of Pooris, ‘No-onion no-garlic’ Potato curry in tomato gravy, spiced yogurt and some sort of dessert. This is a traditional meal in most of the households celebrating Navratri, and preparing it reminds me of those precious childhood memories.
To those celebrating Navratri across the world, Happy Ashtmi! Try this scrumptious and festive India meal today, and enjoy! xx
For the peas & mint pooris-
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup of steamed peas
- 2 tbsn fresh Mint leaves
- 2 tbsn oil+ 1 tsp for tempering the peas
- 2 tsp red chilly powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp mango powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- Around 1/4th cup of water or as needed
- 1/2 tsp carom seeds
- Salt to taste
- Some chopped fresh coriander leaves
For Spicy Potato curry in Tomato gravy-
- 3-4 large boiled Potatoes
- 2 large Tomatoes
- 2 Green chillies
- 2 tbsn Ghee or oil
- 2 cloves
- 1 tsp fresh, grated Ginger
- 1 tsp Cumin seeds
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tbsn Red chilly powder
- 2 tbsn Coriander powder
- A pinch of Garam masala
- A pinch of Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek)
- A pinch of asafoetida
- Water as needed
To make your spicy Potato curry or Aloo-Tamatar…
- Grind tomatoes and ginger to a fine paste.
- In a large sauce-pan, heat your oil or ghee.
- Add your asafoetida, cloves and cumin seeds… let them sizzle for a few seconds.
- Throw in the slit green chillies and saute for a couple of seconds.
- Add the ground paste of tomatoes and ginger. Also add the salt and turmeric. Cover and cook till you see the oil leaving the sides of the mixture.
- Throw in your dry spices and give the tempering a good mix!
- With your hands, crumble the potatoes in large chunks and add to the tempering. Mix and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add around 1 cup of water and let simmer for 5-6 minutes on low flame.
- Finally, add your Garam masala and lots of fresh, chopped Coriander. Your yummy Aloo-Tamatar is ready!
To make your Peas and Mint Pooris-
- In a pan, heat 1 tsp oil.
- Add the steamed peas and mint leaves to it. Saute for a couple of minutes. Switch off the flame and let cool. With a potato masher, mash this mixture to a coarse texture. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine your wheat flour, coarsely ground sauteed peas and mint, carom seeds, salt, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilly powder and 2 tbsp oil.
- Adding the water little by little, mix everything well and knead into a smooth ball of stiff dough. Cover and rest your dough for half an hour.
- To make your Pooris, divide the dough into little balls and smoothen each of them by rolling between your palm.
- Grease each dough-ball with some oil and with a rolling pin, roll into a small, thick circle. Prepare all the circles this way till you run out of dough-balls.
- To fry your Poori, carefully place one rolled circle in hot oil. Once one side seems fried, flip and wait for the Poori to balloon up. Remove your crisp, golden-brown Poori from oil and transfer to a plate lined with tissue paper to drain off excess oil. Deep fry all your Pooris this way, one after the other.
- Serve immediately with spicy potato curry and natural yogurt. Enjoy!