Durga Puja has been for centuries an occasion to rejoice, a festival celebrated by the masses irrespective of religious beliefs. With everyone preparing the most traditional platters throughout the days that mark the final homecoming, there is plenty of scope to go for slight deviations.
So here it is, a rehashed Puja menu, straight from the Fearless Olive's kitchen.
GALAKTOBOUREKI DISGUISED AS A PATISHAPTA
The Greeks love their sweets and this classic dessert with a generous helping of custard wrapped in layers of phyllo has been rehashed to come off as a sidekick to the traditional patishapta pitha.
½ kg phyllo pastry sheets
7-8 cups of milk
½ cup semolina
½ tsp gelatine, or 4 tbsp corn flour
4 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole lemon's zest
1 egg, beaten
First prepare the custard, by heating 7 cups of milk, add half cup of the semolina, gelatine (dissolve it in water first) or corn flour, ¾ cups of brown sugar, a stick of cinnamon and constantly stir it till it becomes thick. Now take it off the fire and in a bowl, whisk one egg with the zest of one lemon and slowly fold this into the hot milk mix. Set this aside to cool.
A Fearless rehashing —
To try and give it a slightly 'deshi' flavour; you may bake some rice powder (chaaler aata) with a sprinkle of ghee for about 5-10 minutes and give it a slight fragrance of ghee, but still retaining the crispy rice crunch.
Now back to the traditional recipe, cut the phyllo sheets into rectangles of 12cm, then lay about 3 of these in a baking dish. Oil the dish and in between layers with olive oil.
Pour some custard in the centre, making sure it does not spill over. Add the crispy rice powder mix with this. Add more phyllo layers and repeat filling process.
Bake at 150°C (pre-heated for about 5 minutes) until golden brown. You might sprinkle some water on it to keep it moist.
Meanwhile, prepare the syrup of palm sugar or palm molasses or any kind of 'deshi gur' (jaggery), orange zest, and water. Pour this over the galaktoboureko once it is out of the oven.
Serve it cold and you might add some more warm molasses on top to add more depth to the taste.
PUMPKIN WITH TAMARIND IN NIGELLA SEEDS AND STAR ANISE
1 whole pumpkin
3-4 bell peppers, or capsicum
1 tsp nigella seeds, or kalo jeera and pinch of turmeric
½ piece of roasted star anise, grounded
¼ cup tamarind mash
¼ Bombay chilli
1 bunch water spinach, or kolmi shaak
1 tbsp diced garlic
2-3 diced onions
1 tsp roughly chopped ginger
2 tbsp coconut (optional)
Mustard, or olive oil
Dice the pumpkin and the capsicum in bite size pieces. In a large wok, fry the onions in the oil until they are translucent; add the garlic for about 30 seconds, and at this point, add the turmeric and nigella seeds and cook it for another minute.
By now, the dish should start smelling fragrant.
Add the pumpkin and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the ginger and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point, add the Bombay chilli, water spinach, check for salt and pepper; add the tamarind paste and sprinkle the star anise.
Cook another 3-4 minutes and leave it to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. You might want to sauté the grated coconut for garnishing, for about 1-2 minutes. Serve this with a sprinkle of coconut and some garnishing or mint leaves on top, with plain white rice.
FLAX SEED AND SESAME VEGETABLE FRITTERS
1 tbsp flax seed mix
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic paste, and
1 tbsp grated ginger
¼ cauliflower, blanched and cut into small ¼ inch pieces
1 onion, diced
Pinch of turmeric and cumin powder
1 Hog's plum (aamra), grated
1 potato grated
1 carrot grated
1 zuchini or 200g gourd (lau), grated
½ cup chickpea powder or (gram flour) beshon
Olive oil or sunflower oil, for frying
1 bunch of mint leaves, washed and leaves separated
¼ cup tamarind mix
¼ cup brown sugar, (you may adjust this amount)
1 tsp cumin powder or (zeera) and pinch of black salt
Mix vegetables with the flax seed, sesame, onions, gram flour (beshon), garlic and ginger and make it into a thick mix that drops off a spoon into the wok of hot oil. Adjust the turmeric and cumin powder, salt, and you may add some drops of lemon juice to make it tangy, or some hog's plum (aamra). Fry till golden brown. Serve these vegetable pakoras with the tamarind mint chutney.