Navratri 2022 is here. While fasting plays a key role, there’s also a lot of focus on simple satvic food devoid of onion, garlic and meat. However, instead of sticking to regular vrat foods like sabudana khichdi or kuttu puri, include a host of healthy broths and hearty soups that are not only filling, but also nourishing. We asked food enthusiasts and chefs to reimagine classic Navratri staples like potato, pumpkin, groundnuts and share some deliciously unique recipes that are easy to rustle up with ingredients from your pantry.
Also read | How to eat sweets and stay fit this Navratri
Navratri heralds the onset of winters, with dipping temperatures at night. In this season of transition, almond soup makes for a warm comforting broth. “Almond is a universally recognised super food and is used abundantly during fasts. One of the ways in which you can savour it is by making a badam shorba," says Yashita Dalmia, a lawyer turned home chef who runs a delivery service called Yashita’s kitchen in Delhi. She adds, “This is a thin consistency soup made with boiled almond purée, strained and added to milk and water. It is then brought to a boil and seasoned with rock salt and crushed black pepper.” To make it thicker, you can add potatoes and fresh cream. Garnish with salt and pepper, and serve hot. The soup tends to get a little gooey and thick after cooling, and you can add some milk and cream to adjust its consistency. “This soup can be had all through the year, but is best suited for cooler temperatures due to its inherent warm nature," notes Dalmia. The richness of almonds and their nutty flavour make for a special treat when one is fasting.
Shengdana or peanut amti is a gluten-free curry with peanuts as the base. It is a popular dish for fasts in Maharashtra, and is best accompanied with sabudana khichdi. It is prepared using groundnut paste tempered with ghee and a couple of spices. Buttermilk or amsul (dried kokum skin) acts as a souring agent while also aiding in digestion. The quantities may vary depending on your preference. Sharvari N Sule, a doctor of Ayurveda currently based in UK who loves to cook traditional Maharashtrian food, adds a twist to this amti using coconut milk as the base. For her, this soup spells nostalgia— the recipe has been passed down from her paternal grandmother, who made it during fasts especially on Ekadashi, a day dedicated to Lord Krishna. In her version of the amti, she also adds mashed boiled potatoes and tempers it with chillies and coriander in ghee. The use of ghee has a cooling effect on the stomach as opposed to the heating properties of the peanut. The mixture is simmered on a low flame until the starch from potatoes coupled with nutty flavour of the peanuts are well incorporated into the broth. It's traditionally served with varicha bhaat (barnyard millet), or samvat rice, or buckwheat khichdi.
Singhara or water chestnut flour is a powerhouse of antioxidants and minerals. It is believed to be heart-friendly and promotes weight loss. Dalmia uses it to make a sweet and sour singhara kadhi. “Coming from a Marwari household, kadhi is an integral part of our meals and features regularly on the dining table. This version of the kadhi has been prominent in my household since years during fasts," says Dalmia. Made using curd and singhara flour, it is garnished with a tadka of spices to add a distinct flavour profile. “Usually a bowl of this kadhi on its own is filling but if you wish to make a whole meal out of it then add samak rice to it, or some water chestnut flour fritters," she adds. A hot bowl of this kadhi will keep you full for long, and makes for a meal that feels like a warm hug. “Keeping the consistency thin, makes it easy to digest too," notes Dalmia.
Potato cheese soup
Bored of only solid foods during fasting? Kunjana Chauhan from the Sattvik Kitchen, a blog on Instagram that promotes vegetarian recipes without onion and garlic switched to liquid foods during fasting. She shares a recipe for a quick potato cheese soup that she learnt her husband. “It is fast-friendly and will keep you warm during the cold months," says Chauhan. She uses pure vegetarian cheese made from milk and vegetarian rennet and adds it to boiled potatoes and water. This is then blended in a mixer to form a puree. It is cooked in butter and garnished with pepper, chilly flakes and banana chips. As the main ingredients are potato and cheese, it’s energy-boosting which makes it perfect for fasting. “We make this once a month, especially on Ekadashi. I love the soup for its warm comforting flavours and simple ingredients that makes it easy to make. It is best paired with sama chawal (barnyard millet)— a type of millet that is allowed on the day of fast," says Chauhan.
Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, pumpkin has a multitude of health benefits. It's believed to boost immunity, improves eyesight and lowers the risk of cancer. This hearty broth is lip-smacking and the recipe is easy to recreate with just a handful of ingredients. Pieces of pumpkin are pressure cooked for one or two whistles and then blended in a mixer to achieve a smooth consistency. Then it is tempered with ghee, salt and chillies. Add water as per your preference for consistency. Serve hot and garnish with pumpkin seeds. Natasha Vengurlekar- Mokashi, a homecook who shares personal recipes on her Instagram page @natashamokashi prepares it using coconut that not only makes it more flavourful, but also yields satisfying—and delicious—results. She adds grated coconut mixed with cumin and chillies to the pumpkin puree along with tamarind paste to lend it a tangy flavour. Chef Ritesh Raje, Chef De Cuisine, Sheraton Grand Pune Bund Garden Hotel, adds buckwheat flour to the pumpkin puree. “Buckwheat not only acts as a thickener, but also adds to the nutrition quotient and boosts energy," he says.
Buckwheat and yoghurt broth
“Since one has to consume limited ingredients during Navratri, kuttu or buckwheat becomes an ideal option and is also easily available during this festive season," says Suraj Sahoo, Executive Chef, Novotel Vijayawada Varun. He prepares a buckwheat yoghurt kadhi using buckwheat flour and yoghurt. This is tempered with ghee, cumin seeds and chillies. To this, mashed potato tikkis fried in ghee are added and garnished with coriander leaves. “Serve hot with kuttu atte ki poori or samak rice. This nourishing kadhi features in our Navratri food menu at one of the restaurants at Novotel Vijayawada Varun, Food Exchange,” he adds.
Make sure to add these soups— endowed with a host of health benefits— to your Navratri diet.
Also read | Navratri recipes 2022: Easy snacks for fasting