A time for treats
ONE of the highlights of Deepavali when I was a child was Coca-Cola. Bizarre? Well, Deepavali was the only time my siblings and I got to enjoy junk food. My parents weren’t health freaks but they were adamant that we never eat junk food. Ever. So deprived was I of brightly-coloured, chemical-filled treats that when my sister gave me a little Hello Kitty purse cleverly concealed in a pack of Cheezels, I was thrilled ... with the Cheezels! During Deepavali though, my parents lost all control. My dad would bring home many hampers from his workplace ... and you know as well as I that hampers = junk food. Bonanza!
These days, Deepavali is about family. The highlight of the day is a potluck lunch with my entire family. The meal is always nothing short of excellent. Among the Deepavali lunch staples are tomato rice, chicken (and vegetable) kurma, cutlets (both fish and vegetarian), stir-fried mixed vegetables and spinach fry. My mother’s contribution was sweet and sour brinjal and a spicy vegetarian “mutton” varaval (dry curry) which remains one of my favourite dishes. My mother isn’t around any more but I still make it a point to make her delicious varuval every year.
The vegetarian meat tastes very little like actual mutton but the varuval is delicious. The “mutton” (made from mushroom stalks, flour, Chinese herbs and flavouring) is tender and soaks up the spices, resulting in a truly flavourful dish. I usually eat this with string-hoppers and sothi but it goes well with rice too. Happy Deepavali everyone! – Veggie-Chick
For more of Veggie Chick’s Deepavali favourites, go to nodesserts.blogspot.com
Mum’s Vegetarian Varuval
3 cups vegetarian mutton, cut into 3cm pieces 1 potato, cut into 2cm pieces 1 large onion, sliced 2 cloves of garlic, minced 2 sticks cinnamon 1 tsp cumin seeds 2 star anise, broken 1-2 tsp cili boh 3 tbsp chilli powder + ¼ cup water, to make a thick paste ¾ cup vegetable stock/water ¼ cup coconut milk 2 stalks lemongrass, peeled and smashed (use only the white part) Salt Handful of curry leaves Pour about ½ cup oil in a wok/frying pan and fry the potatoes for 3-5 mins or until they are just about to get golden. Remove and drain.
Remove all but 3 tbsp oil from the wok. Over medium heat, fry the onions till tender. Add the garlic, cinnamon, cumin and star anise and fry till fragrant. Add the cili boh and a minute later, the chilli paste. Fry till the oil begins to separate, about 3 mins. Add the mock mutton and potatoes and stir until well coated with the chilli mixture. Add the stock/ water and let the mutton simmer. Once the liquid has reduced by half, add the coconut milk, lemongrass and salt and continue to simmer, stirring often so that the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok and burn. When almost dry, add the curry leaves (tear them to release their flavour) and stir into the curry. Remove and serve.