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Celebrate Diwali with aromatic and traditional cuisine of India

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 02, Nov 2013, 12:16 pm IST | UPDATED: 02, Nov 2013, 14:54 pm IST

Celebrate Diwali with aromatic and traditional cuisine of India

Diwali, a five-day festival of lights originating in India and celebrated around the world, will begin Sunday.

To mark the victory of good over evil, revellers light lanterns around the home, set off fireworks outside and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using coloured powders or sand.

Food also plays an important role, with families coming together to enjoy a savoury meal and share sweets.

Here are a couple of simple versions of two classic Indian recipes your whole family will enjoy.

Vegetarian Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry

This pleasantly spiced curry is easy to make with a few produce staples and some pantry ingredients. Serve it over cooked rice or noodles or with the Indian flatbread, known as naan.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

15 ml (1 tbsp) butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

15 ml (1 tbsp) curry powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground ginger

2 carrots, sliced

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes

1 sweet red pepper, chopped

250 ml (1 cup) reduced-sodium vegetable broth

2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt, plus extra for seasoning

30 ml (2 tbsp) all-purpose flour

250 ml (1 cup) 10 per cent half-and-half or 18 per cent table cream

1 can (540 ml/19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

250 ml (1 cup) frozen green peas

125 ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt

Lime wedges

In a pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, curry powder and ginger and saute for 30 seconds or until softened. Add carrots, sweet potato and red pepper and saute for about 5 minutes or until carrots start to soften.

Stir in broth and salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring often.

Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender.

Whisk flour into cream and stir into pan with chickpeas and green peas. Simmer, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until sauce has thickened and peas are hot. Season to taste with salt. Serve topped with yogurt and with lime wedges to squeeze over top.

Makes 4 servings.

Variation: Increase curry powder to 20 ml (4 tsp) and add 1 minced hot pepper or 1 to 2 ml (1/4 to 1/2 tsp) cayenne pepper with the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle each serving with chopped fresh cilantro.


Palak Paneer

This quick version of a classic recipe is redolent with the spicy flavours of cumin, coriander and chili powder. Serve it with warm naan bread or basmati rice.

Paneer is a fresh cheese that is available in the dairy section of most large supermarkets.

Frozen spinach can easily be pureed for this recipe. Or to use fresh spinach, chop 1.5 to 1.75 l (6 to 7 cups) and steam until wilted; puree.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes

30 ml (2 tbsp) butter

15 ml (1 tbsp) vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

5 ml (1 tsp) ground coriander

2 ml (1/2 tsp) chili powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground cumin

1 pkg (300 g) frozen spinach, thawed and pureed

125 ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt, whisked until smooth

Salt, to taste

350 g (12 oz) paneer, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 500 ml/2 cups)

In a large, deep non-stick skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat until butter melts. Add onion and garlic; saute for about 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in coriander, chili powder and cumin; saute for 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring well to prevent spices from burning.

Stir in spinach, yogurt and salt; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 8 to 12 minutes or until it starts to bubble. Stir in paneer; cook, covered, for 5 to 6 minutes or until paneer softens and is cooked through. Stir again and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.