What's cooking this Diwali, chef?
The ones who churn out delicacies all year round tell us about the food they grew up eating and what's on the menu today. Plus, tips for mid-day readers
A vegetarian tradition
For chef Gaurav Gidwani of Indian Aroma, Diwali means maintaining a few traditions his Sindhi-Punjabi family has been observing since he was a kid. "Because we have Lakshmi puja at home, only vegetarian fare is made. The fixed menu includes suran ki sabzi, alu-matar puri and kheer. For the puja, we offer any kind of safed mithai, be it kheer, peda or badam ki barfi, etc, along with a pomegranate cracked by hand," shares the chef. Keeping the pandemic in mind, he has planned a low-key affair at his Andheri home, inviting only his close friends. "There'll be the suran ki sabzi, alu-matar and puri, and maybe a bhindi ki sabzi, along with mithai. We keep the food sattvic."
His tip: Gidwani suggests making tillewala paneer to go with drinks: "Marinate the paneer in garlic, red chilli powder, dhania and salt, and skewer it on the tawa with bell peppers. Serve it with a cheese dip."
Food that unites
Divya Advani, founder and baker at Brownsalt Bakery, swears by a family potluck that brings together her relatives from Dubai at her paternal grandparents' house. "We love Indian food. My grandmother is a wonderful cook and Diwali mornings mean a heavy breakfast of dal pakwan made by her. It's a Sindhi delicacy that's served with an assortment of chutneys, onions and chana dal," she explains. Also on the menu is gajar ka halwa that Advani will be making with her mother, following her grandmother's recipe, along with kheer. "This time, since we are a bit short-staffed owing to the pandemic, we will be making all this at home, but will also order in food. The main focus is on spending time with my grandparents," shares the Wadala resident.
Her tip: "Using great quality ingredients, like the right milk or ghee, to make desserts can make a huge difference to the taste," she claims.
Ending on a sweet note
Khanna banks on phirni for his card parties
Like every year during the festival of lights, chef Manish Khanna, partner and chef, Brownie Point and Noir, will be bringing out the dry fruits and ghee-laden sweets and crispies this time. Reminiscing about the preparations he grew up learning, he shares that Diwali celebrations begin about a month ahead with shopping, house cleaning, putting up lights, organising diyas, redecorating, etc. But, the icing on the cake is obviously the food. "There's fried chaklis, the mildly sweet suvali crisps with a gentle bite of sesame or the hot, crunchy ghugras stuffed with the goodness of semolina and cashew in sinful, aromatic ghee, and mohanthal made by my mother. There's also the phirni that's stored in the fridge for late-night card parties with cousins," he illustrates.
Khanna explains that the menu and preparations remain the same this year, although the affair at his Bandra home has been scaled down. "The prepared stuff has been delivered to relatives' houses and the only change will be that this time, gatherings will be on Zoom."
His tip: "Keep the personal interactions virtual. But clean, decorate, cook and celebrate with the same gusto!" he shares.
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