Invoking divine flavours
We ask chefs to share some of their food memories, as well as recipes, associated with the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi
As is the case with almost every festival in India, food is a big part of Ganesh Chaturthi, the 11-day long festival celebrating the arrival of Ganesh on Earth. The festival is one of the few in India, which is celebrated by everyone with infectious fervour, especially in Maharashtra.
“Several festivals in different parts of the country are celebrated according to how much wealth one has, but Ganpati is one festival where I have seen people participating without inhibitions — from cricketer Sachin Tendulkar to a mill worker in Mumbai,” says chef Saby.
As ‘Ganpati bappa morya’ echoes in the streets, a number of sweets made from coconut, milk and jaggery, along with a host of other delectable food items are offered to Ganesh, and consumed as prasad by many. “Be it shrikhand puri, puran poli or gujhiyas, everything tastes amazing. Nachni or ragi flour is one of the most used ingredients in Maharashtra. I try to create a gujhiya with nachni, fill it with dry fruits and nuts. It creates a very interesting looking and tasty dish at the same time,” the chef adds. The variety of food that is prepared during this festive period is surely one of its most interesting aspects.
For the 70-year-old home cook, Girija Paati, who started a business of delivering food at this age, because she “wanted to cook for more people”, Ganesh Chaturthi means preparing a variety of laddoos. “My grandmother would hand out home made laddoos, in a variety of colours — black, cream, golden brown. We would gobble them up, thinking that these were the same laddoos that Ganesh’s mother made for him,” Paati, who hails from Tamil Nadu, tells us.
“My grandmother packed these delicious little bites with so much nutrition, using pulses, jaggery and spices. It is because of these memories of Ganesh Chaturthi that I make these village-style laddoos and distribute them to as many people as possible to spread good health,” she adds.
Shrikhand is another dish which is commonly prepared across the country on this occasion. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor tells us that for his family, enjoying modaks and shrikhand during the festival is imperative, and these are cooked every year.
“Alyona (Kapoor’s wife) makes sure to prepare a bigger batch because we’re a family of foodies and love to enjoy our share of sweets even after the festivities are over. Ganesh Chaturthi is that time of the year which we all look forward to. Welcoming bappa in our homes is something that we eagerly wait for, all year long,” Kapoor says, before sharing the recipe with us.
“It is quite simple actually. Just take some hung yoghurt in a large bowl. Add sugar, nutmeg powder and green cardamom powder, and mix well. Add saffron, almonds, charoli and transfer into an air-tight container,” he adds.
But perhaps, modak remains the most sought after prasad item during this festival. Chef Ranveer Brar shares the secret behind the preparation of ukadiche modak, which will roughly take one an hour to prepare.
“It is made of jaggery, cardamom powder, coconut, cashew nuts, rice flour and lots of ghee,” Brar tells us, with a smile on his face.