Friday, September 25, 2009

Fasting Feasting

My thought for today is- why does fasting make you think of food? I am really not kidding, I challenge you to prove otherwise! Probably that is why the fasting holidays in any religion end with scrumptious feasts! The nine days of Sharad Navratris, saluting the strength, power and the femininity of the Supreme, are celebrated with a flurry of fasting, poojas and all-night dandiyas. The Navratras also herald the beginning of the annual Hindu festive season. The fasting during these days means that you can only eat one meal a day, and you can't eat "Anaaj", which loosely translated includes all grains, dals and legumes so staple to an Indian diet. That brings us back to comment on feasting - when I decided to fast these Navrartras, I had all intentions of truly fasting, with only a once-a-day fruit diet. On the very first day, I had my stomach growling with hunger at 11am, and I was hallucinating about the yummy food my mom made during this time. I could smell, and even taste, the sabudaana vadaas, makhane-ki- kheer, kuttu ke pakore, sabudaana kheer, aloo tikki and what not.

Before evening set in, I had given up on "be strong and stick to the fast" voice of my conscience. What kept me going the rest of the morning was my resolve to buy some of the required supplies and make myself the fasting feast for dinner. Come evening, and I marched into our Indian grocery store, looking for kuttu ka atta for the pooris. The guy at the store had no idea what I wanted. He nodded comprehension when I explained that I wanted to make the "fasting food for Navratras", and came back with a pack labelled "Singoda flour". "Is this same as kuttu?" "Oh yes ma'am- everyone is buying this only". Despite a nagging doubt that he was wrong, I bought this, came home and got to make the poori flour exactly as my mom did. Everything was great till we got the point of rolling out the bread- the flour had aquired a sticky, non-workable texture and no amount of oil would help. So back to square one, and I started over again to make these wonderful, yummy, better- than-mommy's pakoras!

Singoda-flour Pakoras
1/2 cup singoda flour
1 small potato, chopped fine
1/4 cup Ghiya (bottle gourd), julienne fine.
Saindha namak (rock salt/ sea salt) to taste
1 Jalapeno pepper de-seeded and chopped fine

First of all, blanch the ghiya in hot water for about 5 minutes and then drain. Allow to cool and remove as much moisture as possible by squeezing it tight between your palms. Add the ghiya to the flour, mix in the potato, salt and pepper and mix to a dropping consistency. There is plenty of moisture in ghiya, so start with that and add more water as required. Drop it by the spoonful in oil pre-heated to 350F, and fry to crispiness. They tasted divine with the imli-date-gur chutney.