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Celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with these regional family recipes

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If there’s one God from the Hindu pantheon who appreciates food, it’s the endearing Lord Ganesha or Ganpati: the head of an elephant, almond-shaped eyes, and a chubby little body with a pleasantly plump potbelly. No wonder then, that Ganpati is served a wide array of bhog or prasad during the 10-day festival.

While modaks are considered his favourite, and he does have an innately sweet tooth, Ganpati is just as happy to partake in savoury offerings like vada. Today, Ganesh Chaturthi prasad, and modaks, have become a fusion of traditional techniques and unconventional ingredients (like chocolate, granola, dates and nuts). However, we’re sticking to our roots this season, with family recipes that are unique to the regions they are from.

Gunda and Padengi Gassi by Sajini Shetty
 

Who: Sajini Shetty is a Bangalore-based interior designer and weekend gourmet home chef behind the handle With Love, Saj. She also happens to be a former athlete and national record- holder in women’s swimming—so she knows her way around a balanced plate!

The dish: Mangalorean cuisine brings to mind spicy prawn sukka, fiery chicken ghee roast and puffy biscut roti—rich, indulgent, and not for the faint-hearted! But the cuisine also has plenty of vegetarian options, like the gunda and padengi gassi below. Gundas (quite similar to idlis) are rice, lentil and rava dumplings, steamed and served in jackfruit leaves for an extra layer of flavour. Ingredient-wise, it’s a humble dish, but it can be time and labour-intensive, given the soaking, roasting, grinding and delicate construction of the ‘kotte’, which is why it tends to make an appearance during the festive season. The recipe below is simpler than most but just as delicious.



Gunda and Padengi Gassi

Ingredients: Gunda
•    1 cup idli rice (soaked)
•    1/2 cup urad dal (soaked)
•    1/2 cup rava (unroasted)
•    Jackfruit leaves to make the gunda (you will need 4 palm-sized
      jackfruit leaves for each gunda)

Ingredients: Padengi Gassi
•    1 cup green moong dal, soaked for 6 hours, drained, and left to
     sprout for 12 hours.
•    5-6 Bydagi chillies
•    2 tsp coriander seeds
•    1 1/2 tsp jeera
•    5-6 fenugreek seeds
•    1/2 tsp black peppercorns
•    A few drops of oil
•    2 cups freshly grated coconut
•    1 onion, finely chopped
•    Salt to taste
•    Tempering: 1/2 onion, finely chopped and fried in oil
•    Coconut oil as a final touch (optional)


Method: Gunda
•    
Soak the idli rice and urad dal separately for 4 to 6 hours.
•    Grind the urad dal to a fine paste.
•    Grind the rice and rava to a fine paste.
•    Mix the urad and rice-rava pastes (the batter should be fairly thick) and leave to ferment overnight.
•    Once the batter has risen, make the jackfruit leaf “kotte” or cups, to steam the gunda in.
•    For each gunda, you need 4 palm-sized leaves and a toothpick to pin the leaves together.
•    Make a little cup by placing the leaves crosswise and pinning them together along the bottom and sides with toothpicks.
•    Pour 2-3 ladles of batter into each kotte/cup and steam till done.

Method: Padengi Gassi
•    
Soak 1 cup green moong dal for 6 hours, drain and allow to sprout for 12 hours.
•    Take the Bydagi chillies, coriander seeds, jeera, fenugreek seeds and peppercorns and roast in a few drops of oil until fragrant. Allow the spices
      to cool.
•    Grind the grated coconut and roasted spices to a fine paste in a blender and keep aside.
•    Clean the jar of the blender with a little water and reserve this—it will be used in the sprouted moong curry.
•    Heat a large pot. Cook the sprouted moong with water, a single finely chopped onion and salt.
•    When the moong is almost cooked through, add the ground masala mixture and masala water. Bring to boil for 5 minutes.
•    Temper with 1/2 a finely chopped onion fried in oil.
•    Drizzle some coconut oil over the top, if desired, and cook for 2 minutes more before switching off the flame.

Serve
Before plating, tear open the jackfruit leaf kotte/cup, slice the gunda into 3 or 4 parts depending on its size and serve hot with the padengi gassi.


Banana Sheera by Pooja Kulkarni
 

Who: Pooja is a Hindustani classical vocalist and food enthusiast who splits her time between Mumbai and Dharwad. She chronicles what she’s cooking and eating on her minimal-but-colourful handle @the_sambar_girl (but you’ll find a lot more than sambar on her grid, including her lovely collection of ceramic ware!)

The dish: The banana version of sheera is made for Ganesh Chaturthi as an offering, primarily because bananas are Ganesha’s favourite fruit. According to folklore, Lord Ganesha, the ever-dutiful son, married a banana tree to assure his mother that she would never go hungry and be always well looked after. Pooja’s recipe is richer and more indulgent than regular sheera, as the rava is cooked in milk rather than water, giving it a creamier consistency.

 

Banana Sheera

Ingredients:
•    
1/2 cup ghee + 2 tbsp ghee
•    1/2 cup rava/semolina
•    1 cup whole milk (hot)
•    1/2 cup sugar
•    1 large banana, chopped
•    1/4 tsp cardamom powder
•    1/2 cup dry fruits of your choice

Method:
•    
Heat the ghee in a deep dish, add the semolina and roast well on low flame till it changes colour slightly and gives off a lovely aroma.
•    Once the rava is roasted, add the hot milk and bananas and keep stirring continuously ensuring there are no lumps.
•    The rava will fluff up nicely. Stir for a while longer until it is cooked in the milk, then add the sugar and continue stirring until the sugar melts and
     is well incorporated.
•    Add two tbsp ghee, dry fruits and cardamom powder, cover and cook for five minutes more.
•    Serve.

Sundal by Sreya Vittaldev

Who: Bangalore-based Sreya Vittaldev heads social media at payment gateway services provider Razorpay. She may work for a financial services company, but her true love is food, cooking and conversation, which she shares on her eclectic grid @darthdevi and via her newsletter, Chilled Thoughts. (The newsletter is her “keeping it real” creative outlet, with witty takes on food and life. A welcome break from highly styled social media pages!)

The dish: Sundal or soondal is one of the most common varieties of prasad placed before Lord Ganesha during Chaturthi in South Indian homes. Made with white or black chana, grated coconut and a simple tadka, the dish comes together quickly. While most recipes on the internet follow the no onion-no garlic rule, Sreya’s version has two kinds of alliums for some welcome bite and pungency. She also adds an acidic element, with lemon juice and raw mango, making it a sundal that’s far more flavourful and textural than what you’re used to.


 

Sundal

Ingredients: Chana mixture
•    
1 cup dried black chickpeas (soaked overnight and pressure
     cooked till tender)
•    1 cup groundnuts (soaked overnight and pressure cooked till
      tender)

Ingredients: Tadka
•    
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
•    1 teaspoon urad dal (split skinned black gram)
•    1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
•    2 dry red chillies
•    2 tbs each minced ginger, shallots, minced garlic, and green
     chillies (skip garlic and shallots if you prefer)
•    Coconut oil as needed (2-3 tbsp)

Ingredients: Finishing touches
•    
10 to 12 curry leaves
•    Lemon juice and sea salt (as much as needed)
•    2 to 3 tablespoons fresh grated coconut and grated raw mango

Method
•    
In a hot wok, heat up the coconut oil, add the tadka ingredients, and fry until the raw smell of the ginger, garlic, shallots, and chillies is gone.
•    Add the cooked chickpeas and groundnuts, sauté for four minutes at the most.
•    Add the curry leaves, mix, and switch off the flame as soon as they start to splutter.
•    Drizzle lemon juice, add the grated coconut and raw mango.
•    Add salt to taste and you're done!

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Jaggery Modaks by Averil Gouria
 

Who: Averil Gouria is a “PR girl” by profession and home chef by passion. Averil bakes gorgeous cakes and makes healthy, whole-food, preservative-free versions of Indian mithai on a pre-order basis. (You can always get in touch with her on Instagram for your celebration). A true-blue Mumbaikar, she was born in the city and grew up celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi with shop-bought modaks each year. Now, she makes them herself!

The dish: Modaks are Ganesha’s favourite sweet, and everyone has their own family recipe, like Averil. She approaches her modak-making with a deep spiritual reverence and careful ingredient selection. The recipe is exceedingly simple and relies on whole ingredients with no refined sugar, only jaggery. She also adds a pinch of salt at the end to bring all the flavours together and make the cardamom stand out.



Ukadiche Modak

Ingredients: Dough
•    
2 cups boiling hot water
•    2 cups basmati rice flour
•    ½ tsp salt
•    1 tbsp desi ghee

Ingredients: Filling
•    2 tbsps desi ghee
•    1 whole coconut (grated)
•    1 cup jaggery
•    ½ tsp cardamom powder
•    ½ tsp salt (optional)

Method: Filling
•    
Heat the vessel and add ghee then sauté the coconut for a minute.
•    Cook on slow flame and add the jaggery, salt and cardamom powder and mix till the jaggery melts.
•    Once it melts and all the ingredients are incorporated, its ready. Allow it to cool

Method: Dough
•    
Add water, salt and ghee in a vessel and let it boil.
•    In a separate vessel, take the flour and add the boiling water and mix the flour quickly.
•    Close the vessel with a lid for 10 minutes.
•    Take the dough and knead till it’s nice and soft.
•    Cover it with a damp cloth, taking care not to not leave it open.

Shaping the modak
•    
Before you begin, knead small balls of the dough, and grease the mould with some ghee to avoid the modak from sticking to it.
•    Stuff the rice flour dough ball into the mould walls and place a small ball sized mixture in the centre. Close tightly and scrape off excess mixture.
•    Unmould the modak gently without breaking.

Steaming the modak
Place the modaks in steamer leaving gaps in between each dumpling. Cover and steam them on a medium flame for 12 mins and they are ready.

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