HomeLifestyleFood & RecipesA divine feast to please the Goddess

A divine feast to please the Goddess

An amalgamation of food and faith, Basant Panchami marks the arrival of spring in India. Celebrated today, it is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, for according to popular belief, she was born on this day. “The festival is associated with freshness and a new beginning in all spheres of life. It is celebrated in different states of India. As it is the onset of spring, symbolised by yellow or basanti colour, food yellow in colour is prepared. Yellow is also Goddess Saraswati’s colour,” says Swapnadeep Mukherjee, executive chef, The Metropolitan Hotel and Spa. The hotel has a special menu for the day, which comprises dishes such as saffron rice, makai ki sabzi, kadi pakora, kesar phirni and so on.

Sweet rice with saffron and dry fruits is made in almost every household during the festival. (Shutterstock)

In eastern parts of India, the day entails performing Saraswati Puja, particularly in West Bengal, Bihar, Tripura, Assam and other parts of northeast India, while in northern states such as Punjab and Haryana, it is celebrated as a festival of kites. But, across regions, yellow is a key part of festivities, be it in attires, decor or food. “Sweet rice with saffron and dry fruits is made in almost every household. Goddess Saraswati is offered boondi, laddoo and khichdi. Traditionally, in Punjab, makki ki roti is served with sarson ka saag. In Bihar, people perform Saraswati Puja, offer delicacies such as kheer, malpua, khichdi, mixed vegetables, kesar halwa, kesari bhaat and more. In Haryana, people offer khichdi, malpua, meethe chawal and boondi laddoo,” says Mukherjee.

Paneer Makai Seekh, a dish made with makai flour.
Paneer Makai Seekh, a dish made with makai flour.

To give any dish a yellow tinge, one can use ingredients such as turmeric, saffron and edible yellow flowers. If you want a healthy dish, opt for jaggery and grains such as ragi and amaranth. “For Basant Panchami, we are offering an À la carte feast at Capital Kitchen, featuring traditional homestyle delicacies inspired by spring, including paneer makai seekh, amaranth subz tikki, methi gobhi, sarson ke phool and more. These dishes also reflect the yellow colour the festival is associated with. Rice, lentils, saffron, turmeric and semolina are some commonly used, healthy elements,” says Rajesh Wadhwa, executive chef at the Taj Palace, New Delhi.

There are a number of fruits and veggies, such as pumpkin, pineapple, yellow bell peppers and corn to experiment with. For instance, one can make pumpkin halwa, pumpkin kheer, turmeric idli or corn and yellow bell pepper idli with coconut chutney, saffron oats pudding, besan kaju ka churma and much more. “Tweak your menu and make it more interesting, keeping the festival in mind. Chana dal aur quinoa ki khichdi, dehydrated mixed vegetable crisp with mint chutney, roasted pumpkin vegetable are some of the options,” says Vivek Rana, executive chef, The Claridges Hotel, New Delhi.

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