It seems befitting that we launch our brand spanking new website today, on Ganesh Chaturthi - a festival that celebrates the elephant god, Ganesh. In India, food and festivals go hand-in-hand, each celebration made unique by a particular food item that has great significance.
The name Ganesh or Ganpati, as he is often called, means "god of the people". And he truly is. This particular festival, which starts today and will be celebrated across India for the next ten days, has little religious significance, It was first celebrated in the 1890s as a way to bring people of all religions together, sharing food, enjoying music and community together for ten days.
The rituals may have evolved over time, but the essence of this fun and vibrant festival still remains the same - for ten days, people put aside their differences and come together to celebrate
the god of wisdom and good fortune!
Hindus believe that new tasks, when blessed by Ganesh, will yield fantastic results. So, here we are, about to take off with the hope that you will all join us on a journey to discovery.
Through this blog, we hope to explore, experiment, and inspire a love for cooking fantastic Indian food. The search for great food is endless, and with India being a country vast and wonderful, we aim to trial interesting dishes from across the country.
Would you like to come along?
Today, we're drawing inspiration from Ganesh, and kick-starting this blog with a very special recipe: Modak.
This deliciously crunchy sweet treat is said to be Ganesh's favourite, and is made by the bucketload in Indian households during this festival. They can be steamed or fried, or made with melt-in-the-mouth condensed milk, or chocolate.
My favourite are these - crunchy pastry stuffed with sweetened desiccated coconut!
1 cup semolina
1 cup plain flour
2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
pinch of salt
Water as needed
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup condensed milk or fresh cream
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 ground cardamom
Oil for frying
Start by mixing together semolina, plain flour, and salt in a bowl.
Heat the ghee or butter in the microwave until hot, but not boiling. Pour this over the flour mixture. It will sizzle, so be careful not to burn yourself. Use a spoon to stir the ghee and flour mixture, to combine.
Next, add a little water at a time to make a stiff dough. The dough should be pliable, but not soft. Knead the dough for a good 7-10 minutes, adding a touch of water if it is too dry. Knead until dough is smooth and non-stick. Leave it to rest, covered with a damp cloth.
For the filling, add 2 tbsp of ghee to a wok, followed by the coconut, poppy seeds, and sugar. Roast constantly on medium heat, until the coconut starts to turn colour.
Next, add the condensed milk or cream, and stir well. Carry on cooking untill all the ingredients are well combined. Add cardamom powder and mix well, before turning off the heat. Set aside to cool.
Once the filling is cool to the touch, we can start shaping our modaks.
Set a pan of oil to heat on medium-high.
Knead the dough for a couple of minuted more and break off small portions, about the size of a 50 pence piece. Roll this out into a flat round, approximately 5 inches in diameter.
Dab the edges with milk, and place 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the coconut filling in the centre of the flat piece of dough. Carefully, bring the edges together and pinch them to make a peak. Make up 4-5 modaks, turn the heat on the oil down to medium-low, and drop the modaks in gently.
You want them to cook slowly, in order for that lovely crunch to the pastry. Once they are all fried, they can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.
Delicious, not overly sweet, and irresistable.