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Updated on: Sunday, October 31, 2021, 07:07 AM IST

Diwali 2021: Four celebrity chefs recall their fondest childhood memories of the festival, and share special recipes that can add flavours to your festivities

Renowned chefs Sanjeev Kapoor, Ranveer Brar, Harpal Singh Sokhi and Vikas Khanna share recipes with us for Diwali that bear their individualistic ingredients and signature. But one ingredient binds the four chefs — love for their family
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Vikas Khanna

Your childhood memory of the festival

My grandmother was very ritualistic. Much before Diwali, she would start cleaning the house, decorate and prepare delicacies. We lived in Amritsar and the festivities were an amazing combination of Hinduism and Sikhism. The temple was scrubbed clean. When there was money to spare, the house would be painted and the reassuring smell of the quilts coming from the trunks filled the air. Surprise gifts and mithai dabbas were exchanged among families. It was the season of carrots, turnips and cauliflowers so my grandmother would make pickles to gift people.

One traditional dish you still make the way your grandmother did?

She made meetha chawal (sweet rice). To lend the yellow colour, she would add turmeric powder instead of saffron because she would rather use the saffron (with a few grains of rice) for the tilak.

What’s your contribution to the celebration?

I've been living in New York for 21 years and I have been celebrating Diwali here. I was in India for Diwali only twice in these years, and I miss my grandmother. But I follow the tradition of gifting my clients who are mostly based in Manhattan.

Meethi Mathri

Ingredients

For Mathri:

All-purpose flour – 2 cups

Semolina – 1 tbsp

Pinch of salt

Fennel seeds, coarsely powdered – 1 tsp

Ghee – 3 tbsp (plus more for deep-frying)

For sugar syrup:

3 cups sugar

1 tablespoon milk

Pinch of saffron

For garnish:

Ground cardamom – 1 tsp

Silvered pistachios – 1 tbsp (optional)

Melon seeds – 2 tbsp (optional)

Edible silver leaf – 3 or 4 sheets

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Vikas Khanna

Method

For the dough, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, semolina, salt and fennel seeds, and mix well. Add the ghee and mix it in with your fingertips. Add enough water and knead to make a smooth, stiff dough. Cover the dough and leave to rest for 15–20 minutes.

For the sugar syrup, combine the sugar and 2 cups of water in a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. When the syrup begins to boil, add the milk and skim off any froth that rises to the surface. Add the saffron and cook the syrup until it reaches a soft-ball or two thread consistency. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Turn out the rested dough onto a dry surface and knead it again until soft and pliable. Divide the dough into lime-sized portions and shape each portion into a ball. Roll out each ball into a thick, flat 5-cm (2-inch) disc (mathri). Prick all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing up while frying. Heat the ghee in a wok or deep pan. Carefully slide the mathris in batches into the hot ghee and fry on both sides until light golden in colour. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Dip each mathri in the sugar syrup until evenly coated.

Place the mathri on a wire rack to let the excess sugar syrup drain. Sprinkle with the ground cardamom, pistachios and melon seeds while the mathri are moist. Carefully lay the silver leaf over the top. Store the mathri in an airtight container when completely dry.

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Sanjeev Kapoor

A childhood memory of Diwali

As a kid, I would wait around the kitchen while my mother made mawa or pista barfi, hoping I would be asked to taste it. My father made chocolate barfi. As Diwali nears, I feel nostalgic about those meethi memories. Even today, the lights, colours, food, togetherness, everything seem just perfect.

A traditional Diwali dish you still make the way your mother did?

Diwali is incomplete without indulging in my mother’s speciality mawa barfi and my mother-in-law’s speciality mohanthal. I try to make these exactly the way they do. I try to recreate some legacy dishes at home. Cooking is a medium of expression and transferring feelings through food. In revisiting those recipes, you might end up revisiting some interesting memories. I still make them at home without a twist.

What's your contribution to the celebration?

Apart from sharing my thoughts on rangoli made by my daughters, Rachita and Kriti. Alyona and I prepare a special Diwali meal together. Not to forget, Diwali cleaning, which we do together as a family — it’s more like a bonding session. During this festive season, it is always nice to do something for the needy and making them smile is like a bonus for your karma.

Do you make a traditional meal on Diwali?

Alyona and I cook Punjabi chole, dal makhani and reshmi paneer tikka.

Cranberry Mawa Barfi

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Ingredients

Dried cranberries + for garnish – ½ cup

Mawa – 400 grams

Ghee – 2 tbsp

Powdered sugar – 1 cup

Green cardamom powder – ¼ tsp

Pistachios, blanched and slivered – 10 to 12

Dried rose petals – 1 tbsp

Silver vark for garnish

Method

Grate mawa in a plate. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Add grated mawa and sauté for 3-4 minutes on low heat. Add powdered sugar and mix well. Cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes or till sugar melts. Add dried cranberries and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add green cardamom powder and mix well. Transfer in a greased barfi tray. Sprinkle pistachios, dried rose pets and dried cranberries and allow to set for 1-2 hours. Garnish with silver vark, cut into squares and serve.

Ranveer Brar

A childhood memory of Diwali

Two distinct memories – watching Biji and mom in the kitchen prepare special treats. I would help too. The other was making wicks out of raw cotton. Our ancestral home was huge. There were no electric lights and candles were expensive. We made as many as 300 wicks. We kids were rewarded 10 paise per wick. No guesses for who made the most!

One traditional Diwali dish you'll still make the way your grandmother did?

I love recreating Biji’s Kanak ki kheer. She whipped them up with basic rustic ingredients — whole wheat, fresh milk, jaggery, all from our farm – the taste was out of the world. Of course, I can’t say I recreate the same taste but I do recreate those memories.

What's your contribution to the celebration?

Cleaning the house and making wicks is my forte and duty. It has been ingrained from childhood.

Mithai Falooda

Ingredients

Leftover mithai – ½ cup

Milk – ½ cup

For assembling:

Mithai (diced) – ½ cup

Flavoured sev – ¼ cup

Rose syrup – 2 tbsp

Sabja seeds – 1 tbsp

Almond (sliced) – 1 tsp

Pistachios (sliced) – 1 tsp

For garnish

Rose syrup – 1 tsp

Jalebi – 1

Method

Add the ½ cup leftover mithai to a vessel and blend well along with milk. For assembling, take a tall glass. Drop in the mithai pieces. Top it up with flavoured sev. Pour in the rose syrup followed by the blended mithai milk. Add a layer of chia seeds over it. Sprinkle sliced almonds and pistachios. Drizzle rose syrup on top and garnish with jalebi. Serve chilled.

Harpal Singh Sokhi

Your childhood memory of the festival.

We celebrated Diwali in an elaborate way in my hometown Kharagpur, West Bengal. My mother would make karanjee, shakarpara and suji ladoos. All of them had Punjabi flavours. She would arrange rice and wheat puffs, makhana and batasa. I would always watch her cook the delicacies and sit around with her only to get a small helping over a period of 20 days. On Diwali, she would prepare sweets and farsan and we would share with neighbours. A Christian neighbour would share gul guls and pound cakes while a neighbour from Andhra would send us muruku and coconut ladoos. My father would make some basic firecrackers like anaar at home.

One traditional Diwali dish you still make the way your grandmother did?

Now that we live in Mumbai, my wife Aparna is very particular about carrying out the tradition of laying out almost everything fresh at home, making rangolis and getting an array of diyas. She makes farsan of pressed rice flakes, a traditional recipe of her mother which I love. In the evening, we visit the gurdwara before we light lamps at home.

What's your contribution to the celebration?

I help by making dahi bara, rajma, baigan bharta for a family dinner. Sometimes, Aparna makes special kheer.

Do you make a traditional meal on Diwali?

This Diwali, I will share the recipe of chocolate gujia and besan chocolate sandwich barfi on social media. It is super easy; you can make them at home.

Besan Chocolate Barfi

Ingredients

Gram flour – 200 grams

Ghee – 200 grams

Sugar – 400 grams

Water – 1 cup

Cardamom powder – 1 tsp

Pista chopped –10-12 pcs

Unsweetened cocoa powder – ¼ cup

Saffron – 2 tsp

Method

In pan, add ghee and let it melt. Then add gram flour in it and roast it for at least 15 mins. Do not leave it like that on the flame. It will start getting fluffy and light and start emanating almond-like nutty aroma—this is an indication that gram flour is ready.

Remove it in a bowl and divide it into two parts. Crush saffron and add it in one part of the besan, while mixing the gram flour. Make sugar syrup by mixing sugar and water in a pan. We have to make one string syrup for the barfi. One the syrup is ready add it in both the bowls of the gram flour and blend it till the mixture is completely cool.

Now, add cardamom powder in the saffron mixture and cocoa powder in the remaining mixture. Mix both the mixtures properly and let it cool. Take a mould and apply ghee to it, at the bottom put boiled pista and saffron mixture over it. Refrigerate the mixture for a while. Now, add cocoa mixture on the top and let it set for 3-4 hours. Our barfi is ready, demould it and cut it in desire shape.

Chocolate Gujiya

Ingredients

Refined flour – 1 ½ cup

Ghee – 1 tbsp

Water as required

Chocolate sponge cake – 4 slice

Unsweetened dark chocolate – ½ cup

Almonds chopped – 1 sp

Cashew chopped – 1 tsp

Pistachio chopped – 1 tsp

Raisins – 1 tbsp

Choco chips – 1 tbsp

Cocao powder for garnish

Icing sugar for garnish

Method

In a bowl, add refined flour, ghee and mix it well. Now add water and make stiff dough. Cover it with a moist muslin cloth at keep it for resting for 10-15 mins.

In a bowl add chocolate sponge cake and crumble it. Add unsweetened dark chocolate and mix it well. Now add almonds, cashew nuts, pistachio, raisins, choco chips, spoonful of water and mix it well.

Now take the dough and roll it into a sheet, with the help of round mould, cut it into round shape. Take the rolled sheet; apply water all over the circumference edge.

Place the stuffing in the center and fold one side over the other like a half moon and sealed the edges, flatten it a bit apply water using finger tips and give a fold.

Similarly make the rest. Pre-heat the oven at 220 degree C for 10-12 mins. Remove the tray and brush some ghee on bottom and place the gujiya on it and cook for 12-15 mins at 180-degree C.

After 10-12 mins, remove the tray brush ghee on the top and cook it for another 2-3 mins. Once gujiya is baked remove it from oven and transfer it to serving plate.

Garnish with the dusting of cocoa powder and icing sugar. Ready to serve.

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Published on: Sunday, October 31, 2021, 07:07 AM IST
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