It’s Sharad Poonam (Full Moon). Look up right now and you’ll see nothing but an overcast sky but on Friday morning when we woke up my girls and I marvelled for a few minutes at the moon. It was like a huge golf ball in the sky shining so brightly in the crisp blue sky before the sun warmed up and shone it away.
Looking up at the moon in winter is a little custom for me and my girls when we wake up. We used to have a little song they still sing to their dollies now.
“Good morning Mister Sunshine. How did you wake so soon? You scared the little stars away and shined away the moon”
The moon also always reminds me of dahi vadas. It’s a random memory but when she was much smaller, my youngest daughter once called them ‘moon bhajias’ because they looked just like the moon. I suppose I see her logic. They are plump and round dumplings made with urad dhal and once smothered in yoghurt they do look a little moon like.
Full moon or no full moon, they are simple to make. Cooling in summer as a dish on their own and perfect in winter for accompanying heavily spiced or ‘garam’ foods to bring cooling balance to the body.
I’ve used cup measures here because it’s easier to remember the proportions of one cup urad dhal to three cups of yoghurt. The spice measures are also a guide.You should use more or less depending on your own palette.
Dahi Vada – Deep fried, moon shaped dumplings made from urad dhal, slathered in yoghurt and spices
- 1 cup urad dhal – white or split black urad dhal
- ½ inch piece of ginger
- 2 green chillies – optional
- ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
- sunflower oil for deep-frying
- 3 cups plain yoghurt
- Salt to taste
- Handful chopped coriander
- 2-3 tsp garam masala
- 2-3 tsp red chilli flakes
To make them
- Soak the urad dhal in water for overnight or for a minimum of 3-4 hours
- Wash and drain the urad dal.
- Fill a wok halfway with the sunflower oil and set to heat on a slow to medium flame.
- Prepare a large platter with kitchen paper to drain off your vadas once fried.
- Prepare a large bowl of water for your vadas to soak in.
- Put the urad dhal, ginger and green chillies into a blender and grind to a smooth paste.
- Add the the bicarbonate of soda and salt to your taste and mix well till the batter is light and fluffy. It should be a thick puree the consistency of shop bought hummus. Add a little water if needed.
- Take two spoons and scoop some batter into one. Using the other spoon make a quenelle or ball shape – this is your vada.
- Deep fry in hot oil on a slow flame till the vadas are golden brown, for about 10 minutes.
- Drain on the prepared platter of kitchen paper.
- Once all your vadas are fried, pop them into the bowl of water to soak for about half an hour.
- while they are soaking, prepare the yoghurt by whisking it together with some salt to your taste.
- Take your vadas out of the water and squeeze them so most of the water is out.
- Place a layer of yoghurt on your serving platter and then place all your vadas on top.
- Ladle over the rest of the yoghurt and then sprinkle over the shopped fresh coriander, garam masala and chilli flakes.
Do you have any recipes that remind you of the moon?
Patra is one of my all time favourite Gujarati dishes. My Baa (maternal grandmother) used to make them for breakfast when I was little using fresh colocasia leaves and her own spice mix. I was too little to really appreciate her or her patra which makes me so incredibly sad. However, I wasn’t so little that I don’t remember the wonderful smells in the kitchen and the taste of this lovingly prepared dish. Though as a child I would ladle over copious amounts of plain yoghurt to stop the stinging of chilli on my tongue.
I have used homegrown colocasia leaves in the recipe below as I was lucky enough to find a bulb in Burford Garden Centre earlier this year and successfully grow it in my allotment. You can find the leaves in most Asian grocers in packs of 10.
Gujarati Patra – Perfect for breakfast with a cup of chai
- 2 large colocasia leaves
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1.5 level tsp salt
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp finely grated or minced ginger
- 2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
- 3 tbsp tamarind pulp
- 2 tbsp grated jaggery
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
- 4-5 curry leaves
- 1 tsp small black mustard seeds
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 heaped tbsp freshly grated coconut
- fresh coriander to garnish (optional)
To make them
- Clean both sides of the colocasia leaf using a wet cloth. Just wipe carefully down all the spines to remove any traces of dust or dirt.
- Carefully thin any thick spines being careful not to rip the leaves then set aside to dry.
- Mix the chickpea flour, salt, red chilli powder, ginger, green chillies, tamarind pulp and jaggery together with a little water to give you a smooth paste which is the consistency of peanut butter. Beat to ensure all the lumps of flour have been removed.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your palette. If it is too sour, add a little more jaggery, if too sweet add more tamarind.
- Lay both leaves out on a flat work surface and divide the paste between the two.
- Evenly coat each leaf with the paste and then roll the leaf up so you have a long cigar shape.
- Place each cigar into a steamer and steam for 10 minutes. It’s fine to cut the cigar in two if your steamer isn’t wide enough.
- Leave the cigars to cool completely otherwise you will not be able to cut them cleanly as the paste will be too moist.
- When cooled, slice them into rounds approx 1cm thick.
- Heat the oil in a wok on a medium flame. You can test if the oil is ready by adding a few mustard seeds. If they fizzle and pop then it’s ready.
- Add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and sesame seeds in quick succession. Be careful as they may spit at you.
- Carefully add the sliced steamed patra and stir fry gently until some of them start to brown and crisp on the edges. About 5 minutes.
- Stir through the coconut and if your are using it, add some freshly chopped coriander and mix well.
Serve hot with a side of plain yoghurt.
You can also buy tins of ready prepared patra in Asian grocers. If you prefer starting with those, here’s an easy recipe to prepare them.
Have you ever tried cooking with colocasia leaves? What do you use them for?
It’s Diwali time! There are many stories associated with Diwali but the most famous is the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after forty years in exile.
Laxman, Lord Ram and Sita with a devoted and kneeling Hanuman
The story goes that after rescuing his wife Sita from the evil clutches of the Demon King Ravan, he returned home accompanied by his brother Laxman and devoted servant Hanuman. It was dark and the villagers lit his way with little ‘Deeyas’ or lights. In those days they were made of clay with strings dipped in ghee. I still prefer these old versions.
Traditional ‘Deeya’ made of clay
Nowadays deeyas are decorated and colourful and we usually use candles instead of the strings in ghee. Millions of household across the world uphold this tradition and enhance it with dazzling displays of lights in the sky – fireworks!
Fireworks with friends and family
Children either love or are frightened of fireworks. As a child, I loved them and they were a favourite part of Diwali celebrations. I wouldn’t dare venture outside to watch. It was too cold and too noisy and I was afraid a stray firework would fall on my head. I would watch from my sister’s bedroom window as my Dad lit each one and it flew into the sky bursting into a million different colours. My favourites were the sparkly ones that didn’t make a bang. We weren’t particularly well off but we always had fireworks despite their expense. Our friends and family would come to watch and each year it felt the display got bigger.
Farsan – my favourite Diwali food
While the children and men were outside setting off fireworks, the women of our household were usually inside cooking. My favourite food at Diwali time is by far and away the ‘Farsan’. This is the collective word for ‘savoury snacks’ and at Diwali time we have lots! Samosa, Kachori, Bateta Vada, Bhajias of all sorts. Although these are eaten all year round, they still are a special treat and we’ll have a few varieties in the house at this time of year.
Two farsan I associate most with Diwali are ‘Fafra‘ and ‘Chakri‘. I grew up with these. My aunts and cousins would come to our house and we’d make my Mum’s recipe in large batches. Some of us would roll the dough out or twirl the chakri while others would stand and fry. These are not the healthiest of snacks but that’s probably why they taste so good!
My all time favourite – Chakri
Another job of mine was to decorate the farsan platter for visiting guests. Each year I’d use flowers, beads and scraps of sari material to make my displays. This year that task falls to my daughters whereas mine is to uphold the recipes lest they forget. I hope you enjoy them too.