Prasadham (food offerings) served in Hindu temples are generally prepared to please the palates of devotees. But there are some exceptions, it is also served for the sole purpose of cleansing the souls of pilgrims in sacred temples like Puri Jagannath Temple. It is believed that one can attain moksha (salvation from sins/ rebirth) by partaking the prasadam offered in this temple, hence the offerings in here are known as Mahaprasad (supreme offerings). Chhena Poda is one such Mahaprasad prepared in this temple kitchen, the largest in the world.
We celebrate a plethora of festivals between August & November every year. Every festival is celebrated distinctively in various regions across India. It is quite astonishing to find how the cuisine, culture, and customs vary from one region to other within our country. Kosambari is a traditional lentil salad popular in South India (particularly in Andhra, Karnataka and some parts of Tamilnadu) with little variations. This salad is offered to deities in this festive season and also served to guests at the wedding banquets or festive gatherings.
In this new year, I aspire to rise up, glide above my comfort zone and hanker after the recipes I never dared to try before. Now I have tried the traditional boli that is fairly difficult to prepare. Generally, Indians prepare different varieties of boli or poli with soft or flaky skins and powdery or moist fillings, but I find the traditional one, popular in Kanyakumari & Nagercoil regions, is the most delicious boli. They were usually made thin, flaky, papery & large, and stuffed with a sweet dry filling (paruppu pooranam).
Sweet saffron rice (zarda pulao) is a Persian rice dish, and it was the most sought-after pulao among the royals during the Mughal era dated back to the 16th century. Noor Jahan, the multi-talented Mughal empress, devised new techniques to stain rice grains with edible dyes. Zarda pulao was made using such rice grains of various colors and it became so popular that it was served to the guests at royal weddings & banquets. The empress brought revolutionary changes in every art form. She designed dresses with silver or gold-threaded brocades, cutlery & crockery engraved with rubies & emeralds. She also commissioned magnificent buildings including a tomb for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg which was actually a draft of Taj Mahal.
Navarathri is a festival of worshiping the goddesses Parvathi (for creative power), Saraswathi (for wisdom) & Lakshmi (for wealth). Navarathri celebrations in Tamilnadu is incomplete without making sundal (legume salad). Generally, we offer sundal as naivedyam to deities during Navarathri. We typically prepare sundal using chickpeas or other legumes. So I have prepared sundal using karamani (black eyed beans) for the soft skin & creamy texture. Now I have used karamani of different colors viz., mahogany, peach & white colors and prepared 4 types of sundal.
Ashoka halwa is a protein-rich sweetmeat popular in South India. We offer Ashoka halwa as naivedyam to deities and serve as prasadam particularly during Navarathri celebrations. It is one of my favorite sweets for the beautiful silky texture and the sweet aroma, and I find this as the best alternate for rava kesari. So I like to prepare this melt-in-mouth sweermeat often and serve for the breakfast during festivals and also on special occasion.
Sweet pongal, popularly known as sakkarai pongal, is one of the most common neivedyam (food offering to deities) prepared not only in temple kitchens but also at our homes. We find sakkarai pongal as one of the most delightful prasadams served almost in all the Hindu temples in South India. So I set this prasadam as the benchmark for my sakkarai pongal, then I tried various methods to perfect the recipe for the same and finally succeeded to my heart’s content.
Panchamirtham is the sacred fruit salad offered as naivedyam to deities at home, and also used for abishegam (bathing deities) in Hindu temples across Tamilnadu. The most renowned Palani panchamirtham is prepared using unique bananas that are exclusively grown near Palani hills. It is offered to the Lord Murugan in Palani temple and also to devotees as prasadam. You can check out this video to see how panchamirtham abishegam is performed to the deity in a temple.
Aval puttu is a traditional sweet prepared using beaten rice mainly for Chithirai Vishu (Tamil New Year). We usually offer this sweet dish to the deities at home as neivedyam during festivals especially Chithirai Vishu and also serve as prasadam during Navarathri. Beaten rice (rice flakes) is easily digestible, and the gluten in rice is reduced to a large extent when beaten. So we can also serve aval puttu as a light healthy snack on other days.