Durga Ashtami prasad is one of my favorite meals. We never celebrated sharad navratri festival at home so I was basically unaware of the rituals till we shifted to Delhi in 1972. As a little girl the festival brought cheer and good food. I would wait for the navratra to end so I could gorge on the lip smacking halwa and chana ghugni with hot crisp puffed up poories and collect my kanjak gifts too. It seemed like an achievement to visit a good number of houses and come loaded with money, gifts and food in that order.
The food would be deposited on the dinning table. I would stash away the money and open the gifts. In between I would take spoonfuls of chana or halwa and wonder how the same chana ghughni which is staple of our daily food suddenly tasted unbelievably different and delicious. Perhaps it was the joy and fervor with which it was prepared and consumed that made the difference.
I felt all important after the kanya pujan etc though with time my thoughts about kanjak or kanya pujan ( worshiping the little girls) changed. We also discussed who made the best halwa poori in the neighborhood and who gave the best gift or was generous with money. It was heartbreaking to grow up as it meant no more kanjak invites to me.
It was only after my marriage that I learned to make the actual prasad the way devotees make it as a bhog to Goddess Durga, It was made with utmost piety and devotion. No one would eat before the kanjak was fed. One would enter the kitchen only after taking a bath and changing into new clothes. Especial care was taken about hygiene, puja thali was prepared before beginning to make the bhog, etc etc. The boys felt left out and declined to help call the girls (kanjaks). I wonder if they hated that more, or being famished or delivering prasads to immediate neighbors’ whose daughters couldn’t come. The aroma from the kitchen didn’t help much.
It was tough to catch hold of the little ones as they fluttered from one place to another while we waited to hog the food. My MIL grumbled at our lack of ‘sanskars’ but eventually we managed to gather eight girls ( all below nine years of age) and one little boy considered to be Hanumanji’s avtar. MIL had a name for the boy which I can’t recall.
I remembered my granny telling how putting good thoughts in food while cooking makes it good for our bodies and mind. Maybe this is what she meant and did on a daily basis. The art of cooking and eating with mindfulness and gratitude.
Let’s get back to Kala chana ghugni which is made without onion and garlic for the prasad but on other days it has a few variants. I used to make it for lunchboxes, travel meals, afternoon snacks and as a main dish for breakfast and lunch too.
These days this ritual of making Ashtami prasad is a part of nostalgia. I have used ghee to make the sookhe chane or chana ghugni.
Recipe for chana ghugni or kanjakwale sookhe chane
Black Chickpea | Kala Chana – 250 gm
Green chili – 3-4
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fresh grated ginger – 1 inch piece
Ghee | Clarified butter – 2 tbsp
Coriander Powder – 3 tbsp
Ajwain – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Chana masala or amchur – 1/2 tsp
Fresh coriander leaves, chopped – 2 tsp ( optional)
Wash and soak kala chana overnight in a container.
In the morning drain the water and wash the chana again. Pressure cook it with ajwain, salt and two cups of water till the chana becomes soft but doesn’t get mashed up.
Strain the chana water in a bowl for later use.
In a cast iron pan heat ghee and add cumin seeds. When they crackle add green chili and boiled chana minus the water. Slightly mash some of them.
Add the spice powders and stir on medium flame. Slowly add the chana water and turn the flame on high so that the water gets absorbed in the chana and the spices get coated properly. Turn off the gas and cover the pan till you are ready to serve.
While the chana water is getting evaporated prepare a tight dough for the poori / puri and keep a kadhayi to heat the oil for frying.
Poori Ingredients :
Wholewheat flour | Atta – 2 Cup
Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Water – as needed to knead the dough
Oil for deep frying – about 2-3 Cups
Mix atta, oil and salt in a large bowl then slowly add water to knead a firm, smooth dough. It should not be too soft or sticky. Cover it with a damp cloth.
Make small balls and roll them out to make the poories. Use a little oil instead of dry flour if needed.
Heat the oil for frying in a large kadhai. Drop a small pinch of dough to test if the oil is hot enough for frying. The little ball should fry and rise quickly. Discard it.
Put in the poories one by one. Turn the poori within a few seconds of sliding it in oil and press it lightly with a slotted spoon. It will start puffing up uniformly. Keep adjusting the flame so the oil doesn’t get too cold or too hot.
Turn the poori again and cook till light reddish brown in color. I prefer them this way.
Drain the oil by holding it in the slotted spoon against the inner side of kadhayi. Remove and put on a paper towel. or clean white sheet of paper. Make all the remaining puris similarly.
Serve the hot poories with suji halwa and delicious chana ghugni. You can serve home cultured curd or raita with it. If not making for prasad or bhog you can serve a pickle on the side too.
May you discover the Dugra that lies within you. You are She and She is You.
Happy Ashtami and festive season to all.