As communities across India mark the start of a new year or harvest season, here are 10 festive-special recipes to make at home and join in on the celebrations.
April is the month of spring festivities in the country, with a number of regional calendars marking the beginning of the new year or harvest season. From Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra and parts of Konkan, Ugadi in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Vishu in Kerala to Vaisakhi in Punjab, Poila Boishakh in Bengal and Rongali Bihu in Assam.
While these festivals are occasions for communities to come together and celebrate, food has always been an integral part of all festivities. No matter which part of the country or community you are from, we all have those special dishes for these special occasions. For some, they bring back memories of childhood, while for others, it is very much a part of cultural identity. Even the ingredients used are a reflection of the seasonal produce and provide an insight into cultivation habits of the region.
This year, as we stay indoors to stay safe, celebrations with friends and the community might be ruled out, but we can always turn to food for solace. Here’s a look at some of the most popular festival dishes across the country and their recipes. Order in or make it yourself and enjoy the many colourful festivities right from the comfort of home.
A sweet flat bread stuffed with a mixture of jaggery and lentils, this dish is a Gudi Padwa staple. There are other versions of this dish in other parts of the country too. Here’s how you make it.
For the filling
- 3/4 cup split Bengal gram
- 1 cup chopped jaggery
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- A pinch of nutmeg powder
For the dough
- 1 and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tablespoon ghee
Mix flour and ghee in a bowl and knead into dough. Use water to make it soft. Make dough balls of equal portions and set aside.
Soak the split Bengal gram in water for about 30 minutes and drain. Then, cook the dal with water for about 20 minutes, drain and set aside.
Add the cooked dal, jaggery, nutmeg and cardamom in a pan, mix well and cook on a medium flame until the jaggery melts. Keep stirring as the mixture cooks to give it a smooth consistency. Set the mixture aside to cool.
Make little balls of the cooled mixture in the same number as the dough balls.
Roll out the dough balls into 4-inch diameter circles, place the mixture at the centre and fold the edges of the dough over it to seal it in. Use flour to keep the dough from sticking.
Flatten out the dough with filling and roll it out to 8-inch diameter circles, taking care the filling doesn’t spill out anywhere.
Cook on a griddle pan on medium flame with a spoonful of ghee for each puran poli, flipping them until they’re golden brown on both sides.
Serve with a smattering of ghee on top.
This is an easy-to-make, spiced-up curd dessert that goes rather well with pooris. Another star attraction on the occasion of Gudi Padwa. Here’s how you can make it.
- 1kg curd
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- A pinch of saffron
- 1 tablsepoon warm milk
- 1/2 tablespoon cardamom powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped pistachio
- 1 tablespoon chopped almond
Wrap the curd in muslin or cheese cloth and hang for a couple of hours, until all the water has drained out.
Mix the saffron into the milk.
Mix the hung curd, saffron milk, sugar and cardamom in a bowl properly with a whisk.
Garnish with chopped nuts and serve with hot pooris.
Traditionally, the pachadi is the symbolic food for the Ugadi or Yugadi festival celebrated across the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. It combines the six flavours of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and spicy, serving as a reminder to enjoy all the different flavours at the start of the new year. If it is made as an offering to a deity, most people don’t taste it. But you can make your own version at home. Here’s how it’s made.
- 1 and 1/2 cup of warm water
- 2 tablespoon raw mango, peeled and chopped into pieces
- 8-10 neem flowers
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoon jaggery
- A pinch of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of tamarind pulp
Soak the tamarind in ½ cup of water.
Add jaggery to 1 cup warm water and stir till it melts to uniform consistency.
Filter in the tamarind pulp water to the jaggery.
Add in the neem flowers, raw mango, pepper and salt. Mix well.
You can add in chopped nuts and ripe bananas too.
This speciality tamarind rice is a common feature across many festivals, including Ugadi. Of course, there are different versions of it made in different regions, with variations in the spices and ingredients used. Here’s how you can make it.
- 2 cups rice
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 15-20 fresh curry leaves
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
- 1 teaspoon jaggery
- 1 tablespoon split Bengal gram
- 1 tablespoon split black gram
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3-4 medium dry red chilli
- 4-5 green chillies slit length-wise
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds powder
- 2 fistfuls roasted peanuts
- 3 tablespoons of oil
Soak tamarind in water for about an hour.
Cook the rice and set aside to cool.
Sprinkle turmeric, salt, curry leaves and 1 tablespoon oil on the rice.
Heat the remaining oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and let them sputter. Add dry red chillies, cumin seeds, Bengal gram and black gram and fry for a minute. Add in green chillies, ginger, asafoetida, curry leaves and fry for half a minute.
Filter the tamarind pulp extract into the pan, add jaggery and cook until the consistency is uniform and the smell of raw tamarind disappears.
Layer the cooked mixture onto the rice, sprinkle sesame seed powder and peanuts. Let it sit for a couple of hours before serving.
Pasi paruppu payasam
This is a moong dal coconut milk porridge that is usually made for the Tamil new year celebrations of Puthandu. Here’s how you can make it.
- 3 tablespoons moong dal
- 5 tablespoons raw rice
- 1 cup coconut milk (watery consistency)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (thick)
- 1/2 cup grated jaggery
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- 10 cashews
- 2 tablespoons of finely sliced coconut
Roast the moong dal on a pan until it turns red. Mix it with the rice, add 1.5 cups of water and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles. Take the cooked dal and rice, mash it and set it aside.
Add jaggery to a pan, add in some water and cook until it melts and dissolves. Set aside.
Heat a teaspoon of ghee in a pan and fry the cashews until they’re golden brown. Set aside. Follow the same method for the slices of coconut. These will be used for garnishing.
Strain the jaggery into a pan and boil for 5 minutes. Add the dal and rice mash and stir well until there are no lumps.
Add the thin-consistency coconut milk and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes. Add cardamom powder.
Add the thick coconut milk and turn off the flame. Stir to mix properly.
Garnish with fried cashews and coconut before serving.
Meethe peele chawal
A popular item on the menu for Baisakhi celebrations in northern India, the yellow colour is lent by saffron and the aromatic expressions of the various spices work wonderfully. Here’s how you can make it.
- 1 cup rice
- 1 and 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 cups water
- 1gm saffron
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-5 green cardamom
- 2-3 cloves
- 25gm almonds (blanched)
- 20gm raisins
- 20gm cashews
- 100gm desi ghee
- 20gm grated coconut
- Rose water for sprinkling
Boil the water with cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Add in the rice and cook on simmer until it’s almost done. Drain the rice and set aside.
Heat ghee in a pan, add raisins, almonds and cashews until golden brown. Take the fried nuts out of the ghee.
Put the rice into the ghee and mix well. Lower the heat a bit, remove half the rice and layer with half the sugar. Then put in the rest of the rice and layer again with the rest of the sugar.
Seal the pan, you can do this with a line of dough around the rim, like how it works in biryani.
Once the pan is sealed, put it on a griddle pan on low heat and cook for about 30 minutes.
Break the seal, garnish with fried raisins and nuts, and sprinkle rose water before serving.
Atte ka halwa
This dessert is a permanent feature on pretty much all special occasions in the north of the country, from festivals such as Baisakhi to special occasions such as weddings. You can have it by itself or with pooris. Here’s how you can make it.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup semolina
- 1/2 cup khoya
- 1 tablespoon cardamom powder
- 1 tablespoon almonds
- 1 tablespoon cashews
- 1/4 cup ghee
- 1 cup sugar
Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a skillet, add cashews and almonds and roast on medium flame until golden brown. Set aside.
Heat 1/2 cup water and the sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves completely. Set aside.
Heat 1/4 cup of ghee in a pan, add the wheat flour and semolina, cooking on medium flame until the colour turns to dark brown.
Add in the khoya and cardamom powder and mix well. Cook until the consistency thickens considerably. As the halwa mixture thickens, add in the sugar water while stirring continuously.
When it reaches a thick consistency again, and separates from the sides of the pan, turn off the heat.
Put in serving bowl and garnish with the fried nuts before serving.
A decadent, slow-cooked meat recipe, you would find this dish on the menu at pretty much every Poila Boishakh celebration. It takes a while to cook this, so be prepared to wait until it’s done. But it’s a wait well worth it. Here’s how you can make it.
- 500gm mutton
- 1/4 cup mustard oil
- 4 cloves
- 2-3 green cardamom
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 1/2 cup grated onion
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
- 1/2 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon roasted cumin seeds
- 500gm hung curd
- Salt to taste
Heat the mustard oil in a pan and add cloves, cardamom and cinnamon to temper.
Add the onions and saute until translucent.
Add ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder and turmeric. Stir fry until the raw smell of the ginger disappears and the oil separates from the masala.
Add in the mutton and stir fry on high heat for about 5 minutes to seal in the juices.
Lower the heat, stir fry for another 5 minutes.
Add in the curd, cumin and salt, and mix well.
Cook open on low heat for about 15 minutes.
Cover so steam can’t escape vessel and cook on lowest flame setting for about 2 hours. Keep checking from time to time to ensure the meat isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.
The cooking time depends on how soft you would like the mutton to be. Best way to gauge is take a piece out when it seems about ready and check if it’s to your preference.
Given its sweet taste, this simple rice dish goes great with any kind of spicy curry. A must-have for any Bengali festivity. Here’s how you can make it.
- 3 cups rice
- 6 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 2 cardamom
- 3 cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons ghee
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Mix the rice with turmeric and 1 tablespoon ghee and set aside.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon ghee in a pan and fry the cashews and raisins until golden brown. Take the fried raisins and cashews out of the ghee.
Add in 1/2 tablespoon ghee and the vegetable oil and heat. Once hot, add in the bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves to temper.
Add in the ginger and fry until the raw smell disappears.
Add the rice in and stir to mix well. Pour in the water along with salt and sugar, and cook until rice is done and the water dries up.
Turn off the flame, add in the rest of the ghee and stir well.
A popular find on Assamese menus during the harvest festival of Rongali Bihu, this sweet snack is made from rice flour and jaggery. Here’s how to make it.
- 1kg rice flour
- 1/2kg jaggery
- 250gm sunflower oil
- 2 cups hot water
Add the jaggery to the water and let it dissolve completely.
Add the rice flour in and mix to make dough of smooth consistency. Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.
Make small balls with the dough and flatten them with a rolling pin.
Put the oil in a deep pan and deep fry the dough until it is golden brown.