Maha Shivaratri Upvaas/Fasting Thali
Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in honor of Lord Shiva. On this auspicious day, devotees perform Abhishekam to the Shivalingam(An abstract representation of Lord Shiva). Abhishekam is a ceremony of bathing the idol of god with either water or milk or Panchamrutham(A mixture of milk, yogurt, honey, sugar and ghee). Some devotees observe Fasting/Upvaas/Not eating food for a period of time. Some devotees observe Fasting and Jaagaran/Stay awake all night. Special pujas and celebrations are held at the temples during Maha Shivaratri. Some devotees spend the night at temples singing devotional songs to honor Lord Shiva.
Every family has their own customs and traditions for this festival. Some people fast without eating any food and without drinking even a drop of water. My sister used to do that. I have never done that. Some people follow a diet of fruits and milk. At our home, we do not eat any food during daytime. We were allowed to have tea, coffee and milk during the day. In the evening, we offer specific fasting foods like Sabudana Upma, Coconut Chutney, Sweet Potato Halwa, fresh fruits, dates and milk to the god. Fasting food/dinner is served after the evening prayers.
Fasting food is served in a ‘Vistharaku/Thali/A leaf plate made with broad dried leaves of Banyan tree(Marri Chettu Aakulu in Telugu). ‘Thali’ is an Indian style platter. It is a meal consisting of small portions of healthy, delicious and nutritious dishes served together on one plate. Upvaas Thali might sound like an oxymoron(combination of contradictory words), but it is a tradition(at our home) to fast on Maha Shivaratri, followed by a feast(made with specific foods) in the evening. I try to follow some traditions(at least sometimes, whenever it is possible). As I didn’t have Vistharaku/Leaf plate at my home in US, I served the food in a metal plate. Today I am sharing the recipes of the special traditional dishes served at our home on Maha Shivaratri.
Sabudana Upma – Fasting Recipe:
Since this a fasting recipe it has minimal number of ingredients that are allowed to consume on fasting days.
Measuring cup used: 1 cup = 160ml(Rice cooker cup)
Sabudana – 4 cups
Raw/Unroasted peanuts – 2 cups
Green chillies – 3(Add more or less as per desired spiciness)
Homemade Ghee – 2-3 Tbsp.
Sayndha namak/Crushed Rock salt – 1&1/4 Tsp.(approximately)
Place the sabudana in a colander and place it under tap water. You will see white powdered stuff in the water. Continue to rinse until water runs clear. Transfer it to a wide bowl and add water. The water level should be a little above(1-2 cm) than the sabudana level. I added 3&1/2 cups water(approximately).
After few experiments I noticed that, 1 leveled cup of sabudana needs (1 cup minus 2 Tbsp. water for soaking) approximately.
Cover with a lid and let it soak for 5-6 hours.
While the sabudana is getting soaked, we can prepare other ingredients/foods that are needed for our Thali/Platter. I have shared the process below. I usually prepare everything on the same day but you can prepare (Roasted peanut powder, grated coconut and homemade ghee a day ahead). Click on each task to know the process in detail with step by step pictures.
- Task 1. Dry roast the peanuts, remove the skin and grind them to a coarse powder using a food processor.
- Task 2. Prepare homemade ghee with butter.
- Task 3. Grate a fresh coconut and prepare coconut chutney.
- Task 4. Prepare Sweet Potato Halwa
After 5-6 hours, open the lid and check the sabudana. When I checked, it was perfectly soft and it was not mushy. There was no water left in the pan. It was just the way I needed it to be. You can strain it to make sure there is no water left.
Add peanut powder to the soaked sabudana and mix it with a spoon. I didn’t add all the prepared peanut powder. I added more than half the quantity of the prepared peanut powder(you can little more or little less as per your preference).
Place a wide thick bottomed pan on medium heat. Add ghee. When the ghee is hot, add the chopped green chillies(I didn’t chop them into small pieces because my daughter likes it less spicy and it is easier for her to remove the bigger pieces). Saute. Add the sabudana and peanut powder mixture. Add salt(sanyndha namak). Lower the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Let it cook for a minute or two. Saute it few times in between. Remove the lid and saute (give it a gentle mix) for few minutes.
Saute until sabudana turns transparent and looks cooked.
Transfer to a serving bowl.
As we have already prepared coconut chutney and sweet potato halwa, we have everything ready for the naivedyam. I chopped fresh fruits just few minutes before offering to the god. Seasonal fruit Cantaloupe is also offered on this day(not in the picture). Another simple dessert(chopped bananas are added to milk and sweetened with sugar) is also served on this day(not in picture). The food is placed before a deity and prayers are offered. Then the food is consumed as a holy offering also known as ‘Prasadam’.
Dry roast the peanuts and grind them to a coarse powder using a food processor.
Add the raw peanuts in a pan and dry roast on medium/low heat.
Transfer the roasted peanuts to a wide plate. Let them cool for 5 minutes. While the peanuts are still warm, loosen the skin on the peanuts by gently rubbing on them with a potato masher or with your fingers.
Now we need to separate the skin from the peanuts. I used a traditional ‘Winnowing Fan/Chaata’ for this process. Winnowing Fan is an ancient/traditional tool used to blow the chaff off the grains. I like to try traditional methods of cooking whenever possible. Winnowing fan is usually made with bamboo. I have a cute and mini winnowing fan at my home in US. It is made with metal. My MIL gave it to me. My mom taught me how to use the winnowing fan when I was a kid. It is so much fun to do this. Add the peanuts in the winnowing fan. Line a dry kitchen sink with a news paper to collect the skin blown from the peanuts. (You can spread the news paper on the kitchen floor too. I feel that, it is much easier to cleanup in the sink than cleaning/sweeping the floor). Hold the winnowing fan with two hands and move it in a rhythmic and consistent motion. The skin from the peanuts gets collected on the front of the winnowing fan.. Blow lightly over the skin to separate it from the peanuts.
Add the peeled peanuts in a food processor. Grind the peanuts to a coarse powder and keep it aside. Transfer the crushed peanuts into a bowl. You can use the same food processor to make coconut chutney. You do not have to rinse and clean it now. Just keep it aside for now.
Prepare fresh homemade ghee .
Preparing homemade ghee is a very very simple process. Add 4 sticks of butter in a thick bottomed sauce pan. Place the pan on low heat. Wait until milk solids are evaporated. No need to stir. Keep a close eye in the last few minutes. It will quickly turn dark. Turn off the heat when it turns golden color. Let it cool completely in the pan. It will turn slighly darker in color. Strain it. That’s it. Homemade ghee is ready to use. The same sauce pan can be used to prepare sweet potato halwa. Just keep it aside for now.
Here is a step by step pictorial:
Ghee can be stored in a stainless steel container or a glass container.
For everyday use, the ghee is kept in a traditional ghee pot that comes with a lid and spoon. The spoon fits in the small opening on the lid and the lid fits on the pot. The ghee pot is refilled as needed.
Grate a fresh coconut and prepare coconut chutney.
Grate a fresh coconut using a coconut grater. I bought this coconut grater from an Indian grocery store. Add the grated fresh coconut, chopped green chilli(1-2) and saynda namak in the food processor bowl. Add little water(as needed) and grind it until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
Chop the sweet potatoes and prepare sweet potato halwa.
Sweet potatoes – 3(Chopped into 1″ cubes)
Ghee – 3-4 Tbsp.
Raw Sugar – 1/4 cup(Add more or less as per desired sweetness)
There are many ways to cook sweet potato halwa(using a pressure cooker). I like to follow an age old traditional method to prepare this halwa. The process I am sharing today, takes longer time to cook the sweet potatoes but with this cooking method, the flavor of the dish is totally different and it tastes absolutely delicious. I learnt this cooking method from my MIL.
Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into 1″ cubes.
Add ghee in a thick bottomed sauce pan(Use the same suace pan which was used to prepare ghee). Place the pan on medium/low heat.
Once the ghee is hot, add chopped sweet potatoes and stir. Stir for a couple minutes. Close the pan with a plate that has a raised edge and pour some water(1/2 cup) in the plate. (I didn’t have a plate with a raised edge, so I used a stainless pressure cooker insert and poured water in it).
Sweet potato cubes are roasted with the heat coming( from the bottom of the pan) and are cooked with the water droplets falling on it(from the bowl of water on the top of the pan). They are roasted and cooked at the same time. Sweet potato cubes doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan because of the slowly released moisture from the water in the lid. Open the lid occasionally and quickly stir the sweet potato cubes in the pan.
When the sweet potato turns soft, add sugar and mix. Cook until the sugar melts and everything is mixed well.
Transfer the prepared halwa into a serving bowl. The color looks different when the picture is taken in the kitchen with yellow lights above.
My friend forwarded me a link to an interesting article(published in Huffingtonpost.com) about ‘Fasting and Autophagy‘. You can click here to read the article.
Maha Shivaratri Upvaas/Fasting Thali consists of specific fasting foods that provide sustainable energy. This post is a humble effort to share recipes of the special traditional dishes served at our home on Maha Shivaratri.