mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

F(e)asting…on Janmashtami!

In Desserts, Maharashtrian, on the side, Potatoes, Traditions and Customs on August 18, 2006 at 7:44 am

Janmashtami celebrates the birth of the world famous Hindu God, Krishna. The festival is different in that it is the child-God – Balkrishna- (bal– Sanskrit for child) that is worshipped. It is huge in this part of the country as well as in Maharashtra. Most Hindus fast till midnight, the legendary hour when Krishna was born. Kashmiris are more of the feasting kind of people. Not that fasting is any different!

We have been missing out on the fasting since my MIL passed on. Everyone was missing the ‘fast’ food and the lime pickle brought out only at such times was getting darker and darker. So, we decided to fast this Janmashtami.

There are dos and don’ts regarding foods that are permitted. I personally think that smart housewives invented the rules so that they could eat their favourite foods – pumpkins and brinjals are not allowed (no prizes for guessing why these got dropped!), rai/mustard is not be be used, ghee instead of oil, all kinds of fruits and dairy, and it has to be all cooked fresh – no leftovers. See what I mean?

While the more customary fasts are broken with a regular meal in the evening, Janmashtami is an all-day f(e)ast! I kid you not. You have to survive all day on potatoes and sabudana, or waterchestnut (available as singara flour or bits), or fruits, or dry-fruits, or sundry dairy stuff. No rice, no roti.

Here are pictures of our lunch – the Maharashtrians got ‘their’ potatoes (boiled, peeled, and crushed and cooked in ghee with a bit of cumin, cayenne, and peanuts – roasted and crushed), accompanied by the sweet lime pickle (which uses neither rai/mustard nor oil) and at long last, I got my potatoes – peeled, cubed, and fried in mustard oil (yeh!) and sprinkled with cayenne and salt. That is the whole point of the fast for me, right there.

potatoes stir fried with peanuts potatoes fried in mustard oil

While Kashmiris use only mustard oil, my MIL did not count mustard oil in the foods permitted for eating. Well, during religious fasting anyway. My argument that Maharashtrians never used it so there could possibly be no rule proscribing it, never cut mustard with her; her “mustard is not permitted, so neither can be mustard oil”, to my – “peanut oil is out while the peanut is in; therefore, it should follow that mustard is out, mustard oil is in, surely?” was never settled. But it is common knowledge that MIL rules in India…and in Italy too, I believe. For the record, she was a formidable cook with an appetite for new dishes…as long as mustard oil was out.

In the evening, Baba (FIL) gathered flowers and leaves for decorating baby Krishna’s jhoola (swing) and I knew I had to make the sweet that has become synonymous with this festival in our house – nariyal barfi (Coconut barfi). MIL always made it, and so do I. It wouldn’t be the same without. In these small ways my MIL’s traditions live on.

sabudana khichdi and papad

And sabudana (tapioca pearls) khichdi is what was for the other repast. And people had waited long for this dish to materialise. Do not be misled by the term khichdi here, as I was when in my teens. I must have half-read a recipe in the Femina and cooked it on the lines of the regular khichdi, pressure cooker and all. Never did figure out what the hullabaloo was all about till after I got married. No kin of the dal-chawal khichdi. Trust me. See the picture, if you don’t. Served with home-made aloo papad and the same lime pickle and the aforementioned barfi. Yeh, papad bhi belne pade, shaadi ke baad!

And that is what festivals are about. Not so much about making believers out of us, not about reinforcing dogma long since irrelevant, but about intricately entwining the mundane with the make-believe, the ordinary with the wonderful. But for the fussy rituals and the rules, we would lose an intergral part of what makes us who we are – the animal we can culture-vulture.

Nariyal Barfi

If you have/can get khoya, this barfi is a piece of cake! Or you could make some yourself by cooking down whole milk till it gets there. Or not. Don’t tell me I didn’t tell you how to make your own khoya.🙂

Nariyal Barfi (Fresh Coconut Barfi)

1 1/2 C khoya
2 C fresh grated coconut
(not the dried dessicated stuff, you might as well get the barfi from the market)
1 C sugar
1/2 t freshly powdered cardamom
(see that shiny brass pestle mortar, that’s what I use, love it)

Grate/crumble khoya and heat in a pan till the ghee separates. Add the coconut and sugar. Stir till the mix begins to come together and leave the sides. Essentially, the coconut juices should be reduced. Mix in the cardamom. You can also add in some almonds at this point, if you like. Pour into a greased thali or plate and smoothen. Let cool, refrigerate if needed, till set. Cut with a sharp knife into diamonds or squares. Offer as prasad to the lord before partaking. Blessed bliss.

khoya1khoya2barfi mix

barfi 2

After all that, I am on a real fast today.

With the festive season in full swing, this is just the recipe for JFI with ‘milk and milk products’ being the theme; hosted this month by Vineela.

Tags: Janamashtami, coconut, coconut barfi, sabudana khichadi

  1. Your janmashtami feast looks delicious.
    Arrey , aapne ko waqai papad bele hain. Ab is papad belne ki tarqeeb bhi zara bata dein🙂
    Love reading your posts.

    Krithika –  The first time I saw my MIL making them, I was not amused, believe me!  It was like- God, am I expected to make my own papads now!  Kashmiris cook their meats, and stop there.  No chutneys, no fried thingies – not even store-bought papads, and no sweets.  Thankyou.

    But these papads are nice – and I have a story to go with it!

  2. Reading this blog makes me to come back home and start a family blog. I am a firm beliver that one cannot go wrong with potatoes in general, but once you add fat,its heavenly and hence realted to fasting. My husband, just the other day made an entirely new combination of aloo with corn, rice, and chipotle chilli. It was to die for! (maybe we should say live for!). I will need to check with my mother on the origins of the phrase ‘to die for’ as she is the English guru, me I just use it because I have no choice.

  3. this is a realy good site for youngster who realy want to learn something

  4. Your blogs are so wonderful and sincere! They are an inspiration for someone like me who is newly married and venturing in the kitchen for the first time. I have developed a real liking for cooking thanks to regularly reading your blogs. Please go on posting a whole lot of stuff, there are readers out there wanting to devour every tidbit of information.

  5. That black pickle looks wonderful- and intriguing! I’m not sure that it is the same creature that lies in wait here- could be…but so few recipes about. [hint hint]

    OK Anita…this is the second time I’ve read this post and drooled over the nariyal burfi…there is no khoya within many miles of me. Besides taking whole milk (will 2 gallons do?) and stirring it constantly while it reduces…what else should I know about: like when is a good point to stop?🙂

    The pickle is very easy: sun cook lime (cut up), sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, pieces of green chilli and ginger (both optional) till soft. No oil or any other spice in this pickle.

    2 gallons will be a lot of milk and you will be cooking it down for hours, unless you have some very high heat source (what am I saying – you reduced whey to a dry powder!). Use half a gallon to try the first time around…It will become very thick, like a thick spread. Turn heat off. You have khoya! Great to make gulab jamuns!

  6. nice post…ur recipes reminded me of my home..;-)hppy janmashtami…

  7. Pel, if your Indian grocer keeps Nanak paneer, ask them if they have Nanak khoya. It comes in similar packaging. I’ve never used it so I cannot say either ways what it is like. But no matter how much folks complain about packaged paneer, I think Nanak’s is just fine!

    • I completely agree with u manisha.
      I had used both nanak paneer & nanak khoya.
      Both are gud products & I could make yummy things using these.

  8. TLO: I took your much-earlier suggestion and ordered from Patel’s last week- a bit cheaper than IShop. You buy ready-made panir? WB dear, WB.

    Anita: I will write this lime pickle recipe down….hold on a sec…do you call this nimbu ka meetha achaar? That’s a very sketchy recipe by the way; you’re lucky that I might have some experience with this sort of thing. But just so you know I’ll be adding less coriander and less potatoes. I also don’t have any cayenne; will ground byadgi or reshampattti do? OK, slap me.

    While I have the two of you here, have either of you ever ground your own soap-nuts to use? Well, just Anita then.

  9. Pel, I guess you have no idea what my WB is; no matter, what is yours all about? But – and yeah, I am still up – I buy ready-made paneer. Just like I don’t make my own karela pickle. You know?!

  10. OMG! Pickle fiend. Wait for the poor little plants around here to grow ’em eh? Wait. Balance. Calm. Breathe. Payasam, remember?🙂

    WB😀

  11. Same to you, Pel. And you know exactly what I mean by that!😀

  12. P.S. I made khoya…it took me six hours for one gallon of milk. Nanak you say TLO? I’ll look for it, and thanks for the tip!

    Wow! and you made which mithai with it?

  13. Chicken…but I have nearly 2 cups or so left: gulab jamuns are on the slate for the coming weekend. I’ll pick up some ice cream (never had them this way before)- Haagen Dazs has a coconut w/ sesame brittle that I think would be intriguing with the elaichi-gulabi flavour.

    So you can just go out and easily buy khoya?! And 3 types at that?!

  14. Chicken on a janmashtami post? Now this is blasphemy!

    Warm GJs with ice-cream is the only way I will eat them. The ice cream should complement not compete with the GJs for flavor. And that is the final word. The TLO has spake.

  15. The final word? Oh good…🙂

  16. […] Janmashtami and Independence Day folks!  Which also means it is Anniversary month here – time for the […]

  17. Hey Anita:

    Just came across your blog, and I loved it. Look forward to reading more…

    Best,
    Krishna

  18. […] fed and calmed from a boisterous day at school. If it was her day off, then she might even have a mid-day snack of potatoes (phak’e aulov!) fried in mustard oil.  Oh how we would beg her to throw a few into our […]

  19. […] hope you are having a great feast today on our beloved Krishna’s day of birth.  Today we celebrate a God whose myth recognizes and cherishes much in our very flawed human […]

  20. […] The day I made my gobhi-gajar-shagum achaar I also had plans for the beautiful limes my mom had brought over the previous weekend.  Yesterday, after they had been sitting in the colander a few days, I decided to just do it!  So before heading up to the office, I made my very first batch of my MIL’s lime pickle.  She’s been gone over five years but I still have a tiny bit left from her last batch.  This pickle is specifically prepared to accompany Maharashtrian fasting foods and uses ingredients that are permitted during fasts.  It perfectly compliments the spud-rich fasting foods – sabudana thalipeeth, sabudana khichdi (again, Nupur’s recipe matches our family recipe exactly), or upasachi batata bhaji. […]

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