Krishna is my favourite God, so any festival that celebrates him is joyous occasion, and what could be more of an occasion to celebrate than his birth? We have some interesting traditions to do with Janmashthami from my parents' home, and I try to follow the same as far as possible at our place too. Of course, the pooja is in the evening. On Janmashthami, we try and make the food that Krishna reputedly loved, so I try and keep a little home made butter or ghee on hand as part of the prasada. We don't eat rice or rotis on this festival. Instead we have an array of 'thindis' or snack-ey foods for dinner. One dish that is a must on this festival is avalakki mosaru anna - poha ka dahi chawal. It comes from the Krishna-Sudama story, where Krishna's poor friend from Gurukul days comes to meet him to beg a favour. He is so poor that he has nothing to offer Krishna as a gift but his wife makes some poha ka dahi chawal which Krishna was partial to. When Sudama reaches Krishna's palace, he feels ashamed of his poor gift and doesn't show it to Krishna. But of course, Krishna has divined everything and devours the dish with great enjoyment. Sudama finds that he cannot bring himself to ask a favour from his friend, and leaves empty-handed. but when he reaches home, he finds that omniscient Krishna has granted him prosperity, without his needing to ever ask. What a lovely paean to friendship!
At our place, I make it a point to tell my kids this story and the story of the birth of Krishna, among others, on this day. We also paint baby footsteps leading from the entrance of the house till the pooja ghar, as baby Krishna is expected to step into these and make his way in. Of course, my son, now being four and well-versed in birthdays was after me to make Krishna's birthday cake and wanted to stay up and play with Krishna when he came! After the pooja yesterday, my son, for the first time in God knows how long, gobbled up his dinner without any arguments - a testament to the deliciousness of non-food.
Avalakki Mosaru Anna
1 cup Thin semolina ( sooji)
1 tbsp oil
salt and chilli powder to taste
Water, as needed
Mix all the ingredients together, then knead into puri dough, adding water as needed. Keep aside for half hour. The dough should be a bit on the drier side.
Make 10-12 small round balls of the dough.
Roll out into thin puris.
Deep fry by sliding gently into the wok, then pushing the puri down with the slotted spoon till it puffs up, then turn over for the other side to cook.
Fry the puris until they are a gentle golden colour.
These taste good on their own, or with mint-coriander chutney or even Potatoes in gravy. They stay crisp for a long time, so they are good party food as well.
Shankar Poli ( a fried namkeen)
1 cup plain flour (maida)
Salt and chilli powder to taste
2 tsp Whole jeera seeds
2 tsp oil
Water as needed
Mix the ingredients and knead into a dough, using water as needed. Keep aside for half hour.
Make 5-6 balls of the dough
Roll them out into thin rotis.
Using a knife or a cutter, make diagonal lines on the rotis, then cross these with diagonal lines going the other way to make diamond-shaped pieces.
Deep fry on low heat till done. They should be a gentle golden colour. Store in an airtight container.
1 cup sooji (semolina/ cream of wheat)
1/2 cup ghee
1 cup sugar
Cardamom powder - 2 tsp
5-6 saffron strands
2 cups water or 1 cup water, 1 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins
Roast the sooji on a low flame in ghee till it gives off an aroma, then take it off the heat and let it cool. the sooji should turn a milk golden colour, not darker than that.
Boil the water/ water and milk till it comes to a rolling boil.
Put the sooji back on a low flame and add the water, stirring to ensure the water goes till the bottom of the wok (with a long-handled spoon to avoid getting splashed).
Cover the wok and let cook for 2-3 minutes.
Remove the cover and add the sugar, saffron and raisins. Stir to mix, cooking for a further minute or so.
Top with cardamom powder.
You can garnish with cashews roasted in ghee or slivered almonds.
An option I like to use is adding ripe banana pieces or pineapple. It imparts a uniquely fruity flavour to the dish. It's also a good way to use up over-ripe fruit. Just cut the fruit into chunks and add after the sugar.