As part of the observances of Ganesh Chaturthi (this year, on Sept 12 in US, on Sept. 13 2018 in India), prayer offerings are most often simple; sans garlic and onions.
Why a simple meal on an auspicious festival?
To illustrate the reasoning behind this, I've included this note in my introduction of 'Crack the Code: Cook Any Indian Meal with Confidence, 2016).
“Another important aspect of cooking is intent. Indulge me as I share my daughters’ favorite mythological tale about Lord Ganesha’s appetite.
Vain King Kubera once invited Lord Shiva, the Lord of the Universe, to a banquet under the pretense of honoring him. Instead he wanted to show off his wealth to the Lord Shiva, gloat on the idea that his riches allowed him to even feed Lord Shiva.
Sensing his ulterior motives, Lord Shiva sent his son to the feast instead, Lord Ganesha who is known for his love of food. The pompous King Kubera had a hard time satisfying Lord Ganesha’s voracious appetite, who was incidentally aware of King Kuberas’ devious motives and ate everything in sight. Not only did he consume all the food, cooked or uncooked, Lord Ganesha began eating everything in King Kubera’s kingdom!
Defeated and perplexed, King Kubera scrambled to seek Lord Shiva’s attention, asking for forgiveness and a remedy to stop Lord Ganesha from devouring his kingdom.
To this Lord Shiva said: even a morsel of rice that was offered with heartfelt love and humility would have been enough to satiate the appetite of Lord Ganesha.
This tale serves as a reminder that a dish is only as good as the intent with which it was created and even the simplest dish can prove to be immensely satisfying.”
Here are two dishes to add to your offerings, an easy potato side and a dessert, they are simple, easy and delicious. Some may find them ordinary – but made with the right intent – are worthy enough to grace even the most decadent prasad platter.
Effortless Baby Potatoes with Mustard Seeds
Baby red potatoes are delightfully easy to cook, and this effortless recipe showcases their versatility. This recipe illustrates the flavor balance achieved in pairing simple ingredients to create an elegant entrée. Potatoes are considered cooling to the body but if consumed in excess makes for a lethargic digestive system. The digestive properties of mustard, ginger, cilantro and lemon juice paired with the immunity boosting properties of turmeric and cayenne pepper makes this dish easier on the stomach and welcome on your plate.
Makes: 3-4 servings
Diet: Vegan, Gluten-free
Prep Time: 8-10 minutes
Cook Time, Ease: 7 minutes, Easy
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp fresh ginger, julienned
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1 lb baby red-skinned potatoes (see pre-prep note)
Salt, to taste
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Wash the potatoes in cold water; ensure the skins are clean. Place them in a pot of salted water and boil them to cook until just tender, 6-9 minutes. Take care to ensure the potatoes are not overcooked. Drain and set aside.
Warm the cooking oil in a wok or sauté pan. Add the black mustard seeds and allow these to pop open. Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir in the ginger, allowing it to flavor the oil for 1 minute. Carefully add the turmeric powder and cayenne pepper powder; give it a quick stir and immediately add the cooked potatoes. The oil may sizzle a little. Stir the potatoes to coat them evenly with spices. Season with salt and lemon juice. Reduce the heat to low and continue to let the potatoes crisp up slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro just before serving.
VARIATION: Green beans, or carrots work just as well in place of potatoes.
Easy Carrot Halwa
This is yet another easy recipe, for a dessert. Cooked carrots are considered sweet and warming and thus are balanced with ghee, cardamom and a touch of cream to balance it out. This heavenly combination of flavors makes it a desirable addition to any event.
Makes: Twelve servings
Diet: Vegetarian, Gluten-free
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time, Ease: 20 minutes, Moderately easy
4 tbsp ghee
3 green cardamom pods, seeded and crushed
2 lbs grated organic carrots
8-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (or to taste)
2 tbsp raw slivered almonds
Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottom saucepan at medium low heat. Add crushed cardamom seeds and cook gently for ½ minute. Add the grated carrots and stir until they are glossy and soft, about 8-10 minutes. Let all the water evaporate, and then carefully add the sweetened condensed milk. Keep stirring until the milk is absorbed and it resembles fudge. Adjust for sweetness with brown sugar. Stir in and let the water formed from the brown sugar evaporate, until the halwa begins to leave the sides of the pan. Garnish with slivered almonds. Serve warm or cold.
VARIATION: Use butternut squash or red pumpkin in place of carrots for a decadent, traditional Indian Fall dessert.