Back to contents

A Three-Course Diwali Meal

Jan/15/2023 / by Bindu Gopal Rao
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji2B

India’s top chefs put together a special meal you can make at home

Food, an intrinsic part of Diwali celebrations, has changed over time, with new age ingredients replacing traditional ones. However, the celebrations remains true to their origins.

Given the complexity of the meal, it is a good idea to choose recipes you can prepare in advance to store, reheat, and serve later. Remember, the festival is a time to spend quality time with your family and loved ones rather than spending long hours cooking and sweating in the hot kitchen.

“You may also prepare paan aur gulkand ki kulfi well, or paan shots to aid digestion after a heavy festive meal,” says Reetu Uday Kugaji, a culinary expert and chef consultant. “Incorporate a lot of seasonal fruits or vegetables. The simplest ingredients make the most delectable dishes. You don’t always need exotic ingredients. Go local, seasonal, organic, and sustainable.”

Diwali is when the Indian community, friends and families tend to come together.

“It is important to pay attention to what we are consuming on these festivals, especially calorie-loaded sweets,” says Tarun Panjwani, application chef, Middle East, Fagor Professional, at the Onnera Group. “We must make a healthier choice while preparing desserts. In fact, not just desserts, we should innovate by adding healthy ingredients to our entire occasion menu. While it is difficult to say no to festive delicacies, and we don’t have to completely let go of our favorite treats, we should just swap them with something healthier.”

So here is a “healthier” three-course meal for you to try this Diwali.

Quinoa Biryani courtesy Tarun Panjwani Application Chef Middle East Fagor Professional Onnera group

Course 1 – Appetizer: Sweet potato chaat, courtesy Hari Nayak, culinary director, Sona, New York City

This is a very popular recipe I serve at my Sona. It is Inspired by the one the very popular winter chaat dishes from the streets of Delhi. Crisp Japanese sweet potato cubes tossed with sumac chaat masala spice mix, pomegranate seeds and drizzle of creamy yogurt, date syrup and spicy green chutney will be a standout side dish and a star of the dinner table.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup potato starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • Black salt (to taste)
  • Chili powder (to taste; optional)
  • Oil as required to fry
  • 1 tbsp date syrup
  • 1 tbsp spicy green chutney
  • 1 tbsp whipped sweetened yogurt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Fresh pomegranate pearls, baby greens for garnish

METHOD

  1. Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cool water by an inch. Heavily season with salt and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes, peel, and set them aside until they are cool enough to handle but still warm.
  2. With a fork, gently break the potato apart into pieces about two inches in size. Add the pieces to a large mixing bowl and toss with 1 cup of potato starch, evenly coating all slides. Dust off excess starch. It is important that the potatoes are still warm. The residual heat helps the starch coat the potatoes and ensures a very crisp outer coating when you fry the potatoes. Let it cool on a sheet pan in a single layer in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  3. Make the chaat spice mixture. Mix in chaat masala, sumac, cumin powder, black salt, and chili powder in a small bowl and whisk everything together until they are evenly combined. Set aside.
  4. To fry your potatoes, heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until it reaches about 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, working in batches to avoid overcrowding, fry your potatoes for 3-4 minutes, until they are golden brown and crisp. Set them in a large mixing bowl and toss with half of the spice mixture. Repeat the process until all your potatoes are fried and spiced.
  5. Arrange the seasoned potatoes on a serving platter and drizzle with date syrup, spicy green chutney, and yogurt. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and herbs and greens of your choice.
Hari-Nayak-Culinary-Director Sona New York City

Course 2 – Mains: Quinoa biryani, courtesy Tarun Panjwani, application chef, Middle East, Fagor Professional, at the Onnera Group

Biryani is an emotion, it has many forms, it connects people, it is such a treat which we always prepare on special occasions like these festivals. I have added a special healthy twist to my biryani recipe by replacing rice with quinoa, it is a wonderful seed, not a grain and perhaps one of the most popular superfoods.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup quinoa, washed and soaked
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 3 white mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 baby corns, sliced
  • 1 carrot 1, diced
  • 1 bell peppers, diced
  • Mint leaves for garnish
  • Coriander leaves for garnish
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp biryani masala
  • ½ tbsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1tbsp salt
  • Kewra water optional (available on Amazon)

METHOD

  1. Cut assorted vegetables as per your choice – bell peppers, baby corn, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas.
  2. Wash and soak one cup of quinoa for one hour.
  3. Place a boiling pan with water.
  4. Once the water boils, put quinoa and let it boil for 15 minutes.
  5. Add oil to another nonstick heavy bottom pan.
  6. Add bay leaf, cumin seeds, green chilies chopped, sliced onions and sauté it.
  7. Once the onions are browned, reserve some and keep them for garnish.
  8. Now in the same pan, add all the veggies and cook them on medium heat,
  9. Add the powdered spices – biryani masala, coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric powder, red chili powder and salt.
  10. Now add fresh, chopped mint leaves.
  11. Keep a check on the quinoa; once boiled, drain it completely and transfer it into the biryani pan.
  12. Layer the quinoa and mix it generously with the veggies.
  13. Check the seasoning, drizzle kewra water if you like to, and cover the dish with lid and let it cook for 10 minutes,
  14. Garnish it with fried onion, mint, and coriander leaves.
  15. Serve hot with plain yogurt or raita.
Tarun Panjwani, Application Chef - Middle East, Fagor Professional - Onnera group

Course 3 – Dessert: Vegan bhutte ka halwa, courtesy Reetu Uday Kugaji, culinary expert and chef consultant

It is creamy, rich, delectable, and smooth like silk halwa prepared with puree of corn kernels, slow cooked in vegan ghee, sweetened with coconut sugar, goes in loads of slivered nuts and raisins, mildly flavored with green cardamom powder, laced with vegan chandi ka warq, and topped with slivered nuts

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bhuttas (corn on the cob) with the husk removed and
  • ½ cup corn kernels, pureed
  • 2 tbsp vegan ghee / vegetable oil
  • 2½ tbsp coconut sugar (more or less as desired)
  • ¾ cup water / almond milk
  • ¼ tbsp almonds, slivered
  • ¼ tbsp pistachio nuts
  • ¼ tbsp raisins

For the flavoring

  • ¼ tsp green cardamom powder

For the lacing

  • ½ sheet vegan silver leaf (chandi ka warq) (available on Amazon)

For the garnish

  • ¼ tbsp almonds, slivered
  • ¼ tbsp pistachio nuts, slivered

METHOD

Shave the bhutta (Corn on the cob) to get only the kernels.

  1. Blend the corn kernels into a smooth purée / paste.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pan add and heat vegan ghee / vegetable oil.
  3. Add the corn and cook for two minutes over a high flame, ensuring that you stir it continuously.
  4. Lower the flame to a medium heat, cook the paste and stir occasionally for another 15 minutes ensuring that it does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5.  Once the ghee starts oozing out of the corn paste add hot / lukewarm water / milk.
  6.  Be extra careful at this stage as the halwa has the tendency to splutter, you may cover it with a lid, and then open and stir till a little water is absorbed.
  7.  Add the coconut sugar and green cardamom powder. Mix well.
  8. Let the sugar melt completely. Once the halwa thickens and the ghee oozes out, switch off the flame. Serve very hot in dessert bowls, laced with vegan silver leaf and garnish with slivered almonds and pistachio nuts.

Tips

Add saffron strands, if desired.

 Do not add too much of flavorings as it might mask the delicate flavor of bhutta.