The 9 days festive period of fasting (Navratri/Naudurge) has started last weekend. For those who don’t know- Navratri is part of a pan-Asian, 9-day autumn festival that goes by different names. The Chinese related peoples of Asia call it the Nine Emperor Gods Festival and the Indian related people call it the Navaratri (Festival of Nine Nights).
In India, the primary theme is the celebration of truth over evil. Women take a central stage in this festival and it is a celebration of feminine qualities such as dance, music and decoration. It is also a reminder of historic status of women and how they held lot more power in ancient India.
Navratri fasting may have religious origins but there is a strong scientific reason backing it. The festival occurs twice a year, each time when the season is at the brink of change: from winter to summer and again when the air starts to get a bit chilly. And this is also the time when our immunity is low and it is advisable to eat light and nutritious food. This period of fasting enables us to cleanse our metabolism or as you say in modern terms- detoxify the system.
I don’t keep fasts and follow the rules myself. But I do take care to eat lighter than usual during this time for the said reason above. I try to eat less of grains, “tamasic” veggies like onion and garlic and also avoid eggs completely. My non-vegetarian husband tries and avoid his weekend indulgence into a chicken curry or Biryani.
More recipes for fasting days:
One of the simple curries that I cook during this time is – Alu matar i.e. Potatoes and green peas curry. It is a no onion-garlic recipe which is suitable for this period OR any time when you want to have something light yet nutritious.
Just a couple of spices, most of them aiding in digestion, make this curry flavourful and nutritious. Extensive use of tomatoes makes the base smooth and thick so you don’t miss onion-garlic combo much. Pair it with simple roti, poori or paratha, even plain boiled rice to get a perfect light meal.
What you need?
2 cups of Green peas – shelled or thawed if frozen
3-4 potatoes- boiled and peeled
3-4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 green chilies
Small piece of ginger- about ½ inch
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds- jeera powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp Salt OR to taste
2 tbsp cooking oil- I used Mustard oil or coconut oil
A pinch of asafoetida (heeng)
A handful of coriander leaves (cilantro)- washed and chopped
How to make?
Take tomatoes, ginger and green chilies and blend together to a smooth paste. Dice boiled potatoes into cubes. Thaw green peas if taken frozen. Keep them ready.
In a pan, heat oil. Throw in cumin seeds and asafoetida, fry for like 10 seconds. When it starts to crackle, add ground tomato paste with all the spices. Sauté for about 7-8 minutes or till the oil starts leaving the masala (cooked paste)
Add green peas, mix well and let them cook for about 10-12 minutes until the peas are properly cooked and soft. Add about 1 ½ cups of water at this point and bring it to boil. Add in potato cubes, cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot
Another way of making this curry a bit more interesting (read: fattening and super tasty!) is to fry the potato cubes and then add to the base. It imparts a completely different taste altogether but of course is not the light curry we were aiming for.
You may boil the green peas in advance to save on time and add them along with the potato cubes in one go. The taste will way, will be almost the same. Except that I like the original method more since that way the peas absorb a lot of flavour from the masala.
You may also add some curry leaves to the curry along with the cumin seeds. But since this is primarily a north Indian curry, I have kept the spices used only in the region to get the best flavour.
Another one of my fav. fasting recipes is this- Alu dhaniya (potatoes cooked with cilantro and mild spices)
Another version of alu matar is this Alu matar rassa. Again, super easy to make and makes a light meal: