Sunday, November 1, 2009

Family Feast Days: Diwali


My son has a very good friend named Siddhant. As you might suspect, Siddhant is Indian (dot, not feather) and it was from Siddhant's mother, Nikita, that we first learned about Diwali.

Nikita is a talented cook and a generous friend. I still remember Thor coming home with a whole bag full of dried pappadums in a variety of flavors only days after my telling her how much we loved them. She's taught me how to make parathas and has promised a pappadum lesson this Spring. At school, she treated Thor's class two years in a row to a Diwali celebration, where they decorated the tiny clay pots associated with the holiday.

Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, pays tribute to several Hindu legends whose central themes are the victory of good over evil. Celebrated by the illuminations of numerous lamps, candles, and clay pots filled with oil, Diwali lasts 5 days, each with its own special significance. This site is a great source of information about the meaning of Diwali and the ways that is honored around the world.

Our celebration involved a delicious autumnal Indian meal by candlelight where we talked about why Siddhant's mom was a "veterinarian" and if that made Siddhant faster and, if so, why I should then become one. I so love the complex workings of the 5 year old's mind.

Here's the menu for our non-veterinarian meal:

Red Kuri Samosas with Leek and Bacon
Cilantro Chutney
Lamb Curry with Pumpkin and Turnip Greens (I confess that I did fish out the turnip greens for Thor)
Basmati Rice

The steps can be broken down over a few days and I've noted what can be made ahead.

Red Kuri Squash Samosas

I adapted the samosa dough from Julie Sahni's book Savoring India that she wrote for Williams-Sonoma. Everything I've made from it has been absolutely delicious.

Makes 16 samosas

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water less 1 tablespoon white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
½ red kuri squash, peeled and steamed until tender
2 medium boiling potatoes cooked until tender and peeled after cooking
1 bacon slice
½ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
½ leek, chopped
vegetable oil for deep frying


Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of wine to a measuring cup and then pour in enough water to equal 2/3 cup liquid. Add the oil to the cup and stir. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry gradually while stirring with a fork. You want the mixture to come together just enough to be kneaded so you may have some liquid left over. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it forms a soft dough. Return the dough to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rest for ½ hour. In the meantime, make the filling.

Mash together the squash and potato. Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to drain. Add the leek and cook until softened in the bacon fat. Sprinkle on the spices and salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape in mashed potatoes and squash and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Roll the dough out to an 18-inch rope between your fingers.


Cut into 8 even pieces. Working with one at a time, roll a piece into a 6-inch circle. Cut it in half. Add heaping tablespoon of filling to one side. Brush with dissolved cornstarch and form a cone. Seal the edges. When finished with a samosa, set it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, wax paper or silicone pan liner. Repeat with reamining samosas. Samosas can be frozen at this point.

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot until 325º F. Fry for about 7 minutes or until browned. If you're cooking them from the freezer, you will need to cook them a little longer. Drain and serve with cilantro chutney.

Cilantro Chutney
Makes approximately 1 cup

1 ½ cups cilantro leaves
1 ½ tablespoon chopped tropea or other red onion
½ small red chili pepper
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil.

Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Lamb Curry with Pumpkin and Turnip Greens
For 4 servings


This recipe was also adapted from Julie Sahni's book

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound lamb meat from the leg or the shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup diced yellow onion
3 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup tomato puree
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound piece of pumpkin cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch of very fresh turnip greens, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven over high heat (I used my slow cooker with the removable insert). Add the lamb cubes in batches and sear. Remove to a medium bowl. Repeat with remaining pieces.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil to the pan. Saute the onion and the spices and salt in the oil until it is lightly browned. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, and chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Return the lamb to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook until the lamb is almost completely tender about 1 1/2 hours. Add the pumpkin cubes and turnip greens cover and cook for an additional 1/2 hour. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with garam masala and cilantro.

Makes 8 loaves

Adapted from a recipe on

1 ½ teaspoon dry yeast
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons clarified butter
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt

Mix the yeast and honey into the warm water in a small bowl and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until it is foamy, indicating that the yeast is active. Add the flours to the bowl of a stand mixture. Pour in the yeast, 3tablespoons clarified butter and yogurt. Knead with a dough hook until the dough is soft. Add salt and knead until combined.vRemove the dough from the mixer and knead by hand for a few minutes on a floured surface. Transfer to an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400º F.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and knead for 5 minutes by hand on a floured surface. Divide the dough into eight even pieces. With a rolling pin or your hands, push out each ball into an oval 1/3-inch thick. Dimple with your fingers. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush each naan with some melted clarified butter. Bake on a lightly oiled sheet of aluminum foil set onto a baking sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the naan is gently browned. Flip and bake on the other side for an additional 5-7 minutes. Serve warm.

Kids' Cooking Tips
Kids can prepare many of the ingredients for the curry, samosas and the chutney. They can mix the dough for both the samosas and the naan. They will have a ton of fun rolling out the dough for both and filling the samosas.

Samosas are so much fun for kids to make so I'm excited to announce that Nikita has agreed to teach a family samosa making class for Purple Asparagus in January 2010. Check back here for more information.

Red kuri squash, pumpkin, onions and potatoes from Genesis Growers (WI)
Bacon from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm (IL)
Lamb from Mint Creek (IL)
Garlic and turnip greens from Growing Home (IL)
Cilantro from Smit's (IL)


  1. Love the mention!! I am now a "veterinarian" haha! (I care enough about the animals so as not to eat them!!)


  2. I need more samosas (although the lamb stew was pretty good too).


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