Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Chironji Ki Dal Recipe / Gluten Free Curry Made With Chironji ~ Navratri Vrat Recipes

Rituals, age old traditions which we bring out from our rich cultural heritage treasure chest, are responsible for all the smiles, happiness and warmth around, when the festivities are in full swing. I have been a keen and inquisitive observer of these ceremonial practices from the time I was a little girl. Some of these customs fascinated me, some of them intrigued me and most of them made me ask the family elders innumerable questions. Yesterday was celebrated as Shashti, the day which heralds the beginning of Durga Puja and Bengalis follow some rituals on that day. These rituals are outlined in our scriptures and are abided accordingly. Kalp~Arambha is the ritual performed before the beginning of Durga Puja. Kalp~Arambha is the ritual of taking a pledge (sankalp) to follow each and very custom and ritual as is mentioned in the books without any deviation whatsoever. 

Next is the all important ritual called Bodhan which my Ma said was to infuse life symbolically into the idol of Goddess Durga which is also called pran protishtha (establishing life). It is on this day that the idol of the Goddess is finally open for viewing by all. Next the hall or Puja Mandap is sanctified so that Goddess Durga can reside here for the entire span of the Pujas. This is known as Adhivas. Finally under an wood apple/golden apple tree known as bel tree, an earthen pot or kalash is placed and another ritual called Abahan or Amantran which means inviting or requesting Goddess Durga to grace your home / Puja Mandap is performed. This Kalash is finally placed inside the Mandap.

Another popular belief in Bengal is that Goddess Durga who is also Parvati the consort of Lord Shiva on this day comes for a three day visit to her parent's home along with her children Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartika, Goddess Laxmi and Goddess Saraswati. 5, 7 or 9 married ladies get together to place and establish the earthen pot in front of her idol as a gesture of welcoming the Goddess Durga just like a daughter is welcomed to her father's abode.

Today is being celebrated as Saptami in Bengal. Saptami is synonymous with the ritual of Kola Bau or Naba~patrika Snan during sunrise. This ritual involves tying 8 types of leaves with the help of the twigs from the white butterfly pea flower plant (sada aparajita) along with nine bunches of yellow thread to the trunk of a young banana plant. The Naba~Patrika (Nine~Leaves) are then bathed in the water of the ganges accompanied by drum (Dhaak) beats. This is followed by the young banana tree being bedecked in a white saree with a gorgeous red border, vermilion smeared on its leaves, just like a quintessential Bengali Bride. Ma told me that the nine leaves embodies the nine forms of Goddess Durga.

This particular ritual is taken from an ancient tradition when idol worship was not prevalent. Ma narrated to me that many many years ago when people only worshiped mother nature, just before the autumn harvest farmers used to worship Naba~Patrika as a symbol of Goddess Durga to invoke her blessings for a rich harvest. Later on with time as idol worship came into being, the ritual of Naba~Patrika was included in the Durga Puja customs.

On the beats of the Daak(traditional drum) Ma Durga is woken up on Saptami day. An earthen or copper plate is taken and either a small mirror (a silver coated looking glass) or speculum mirror (Is an ancient mirror made from copper and tin) called Darpan in Bengali is placed in this plate. The plate is then positioned in such a way that the reflection of Goddess Durga can be seen in it. This mirror is used while bathing the idol of the Goddess Durga. In  reality only the reflection of the Goddess in the mirror placed on the plate is bathed. on Saptami day 108 small pots of water are used to bathe the goddess. This is followed by offerings fruits/phal, mishti/sweets, doi/ sweet yogurt culminating with aarti (the hindu ritual of offering ghee dipped wick and incense mainly to God). Lunch offering comprises of 5 types of bhaja(vegetable fries), Khichuri (lentil rice), Payesh (sweet rice pudding), Aloo Phukophir torkari (potato cauliflower curry), chutney (relish) etc. and finished off with Aarti. Boikali or the evening offering is generally luchi(puffed deep fried Indian bread), Suji(Semolina sweet), Payesh, Pitha(sweets made typically from rice flours) etc. and the Goddess is finally put to sleep after the Aarti.

While all these fascinating customs are being followed by Bengalis, other parts of India are continuing the 7th day of Navratri Fast. They are worshipping Goddess Kaalratri, today, who is the destroyer of ignorance and after a whole day of fasting and prayers, they have a vegetarian, gluten free meal, which allows only the use of certain vegetables, gluten free grains, fruits, nuts, milk and milk products. No onion, garlic, pulses, wheat flour, rice etc. are allowed. I wanted to share a dish today which is in lieu of the Navratri Fasts and has been prepared keeping in mind the allowed ingredients during this fast. It is called Chironji Ki Dal and is a lentil free curry made using Chironji (also known as Charoli are almond flavoured seeds), bottle gourd, coconut and spices. It is a mild curry very soothing on the gut, creamy with a texture similar to that of a traditional lentil curry, so the name. You can pair it with breads made from flours used for fasting or fasting rice like sama ke chawal (barnyard millets). For my friends who are not celebrating Navratri I would strongly recommend that you try the Chironji Ki Dal, as it makes for a very delicious curry which complements, vegetarian sides and flat breads, steamed rice etc. Lets have a look at the ingredients.

Chironji Ki Dal Recipe / Gluten Free Curry Made With Almond Flavoured Seeds Chironji / Navratri Recipe ~




1 Cup Chironji / Almond Flavoured Seeds
1 Cup Bottle Gourd / Lauki, finely grated
4 Tbsp Coconut, freshly grated
1 Tsp Coriander Powder
1 Tsp Red Chilli Powder (please omit if you do not eat this during Navratri fasting)
1 1/2 Tbsp beaten Yogurt / Dahi
5~6 Whole Peppercorns
1 Tsp Crushed Cardamom Powder
Fasting Salt / Sendha Namak to taste
2 Cups Water approximately for cooking


1 Tbsp Ghee, clarified butter
1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
3~4 Dry Red Button Chillies (please omit if you do not eat this during Navratri fasting)
1 Tbsp Ginger julienne 
2 Tbsp husked Chironji from above
1 Sprig Curry leaves (Please omit if you do not eat this during Navratri fasting)


Chopped Fresh Coriander Leaves
Green Chillies

Get Cooking Chironji Ki Dal With Me In Easy Steps ~

1) Soak the chironji in warm water for 1 hour. Drain the water and remove the skin. Remove 2 Tbsp of husked Chronji aside for tempering.
NOTE ~ To easily remove the skin from the chironji place it in a cloth kitchen towel. Bring one end of the towel to cover the chironji. Gently rub the chironji using the part of the cloth covering the chironji.

2) In a food processor / normal grinder add husked chironji and coconut and whizz then into a smooth runny paste by adding enough water.

3) Take either a pressure cooker or a normal pan. Add the finely grated bottle gourd followed by the chironji, coconut paste.

** Add red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt to taste. Mix well
** Add water. Mix.
** Add Yogurt. Mix.
** Finally add cardamom powder and black pepper corns.
** Cover and cook OR pressure cook until the bottle gourd is soft.

4) Remove from the flame. Transfer to a serving bowl.

5) For the tempering, take a pan. Pour a tbsp clarified butter into it. 

** Add cumin seeds, dry red button chilies. 
** Once they crackle, add husked chironji and ginger julienne. Fry until golden brown.
** Finally add curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds.
** Remove from flame and pour the tempering over the Chironji Ki Dal
** Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and green chillies

Chironji Ki Dal tastes delicious with gluten free flat breads, deep fried gluten free puffed breads, rice, barnyard millets pilaf etc. This is a very nouvelle curry with a velvety texture, mild yet delectable flavours and very gentle on the gut.

Reference ~

Chef Niru Gupta

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