With the festive season here, it’s time to get ready to not only attend but also host your loved ones this Diwali. But during the hustle and bustle of Diwali cleaning and preparations, setting the perfect food menu for guests becomes a true task. So, we had a conversation with Delhi-based Chef Anahita Dhondy, who is known to bless the Instagram world with some of the yummiest and easiest recipes one could ever make.
We spoke all about her favourite festive food memories, rituals and she even gave us one of the easiest and healthiest snacks to binge on, during this festival of lights. Start taking notes people.
HELLO!: What does the festive season mean for you as a chef?
AD: “It is a very busy time for our industry since we really don’t have an off when the world is celebrating. The festive season is when our business is most busy, so I think it’s important to have some kind of balance where you can spend time with your family while also being in the kitchen, even though it really doesn’t happen. We chefs are so invested in our kitchens and business that you’d usually find us there, even on Diwali day.”
HELLO!: Do you have any childhood memories of dishes that you and your family enjoyed making during the festive season?
AD: “So we would always have a good mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food cooked at home by my mom. She would make a simple dish like an aloo ki sabzi with poori and kaddu because my family is from Allahabad [Prayagraj], so we also have a very strong UP influence in our food. My mom would also make a mutton dish, we usually have some kebabs, and then end the meal with a phirni or my favourite gulab jamun for dessert.”
HELLO!: Do you still follow this family festive ritual?
AD: “We do, pretty much still follow it. With time, we played around and changed the menu a bit. Sometimes, we get very saturated with eating Indian food all week long, so we end up making something totally different. When you are enjoying the festivities with your friends and family, you end up eating so much Indian food that it becomes a bit heavy.”
HELLO!: Which is your one favourite meal that your guests love every time you host them?
AD: “I have a really good South Indian and Bengali menu. I like to make prawn ghee roast, fish curry, homemade appam, and dosas. I really like putting together different regional food menus whenever I have people coming over. But usually, I ask them what cuisine they would like to eat and then prepare that for them.”
HELLO!: We all know how much you love travelling. Do you take inspiration from your holidays when you are in the kitchen and trying to create something special?
AD: “Travel for me is all about experiencing especially new food experiences. When I’m travelling, I love to do a good mix of street food, fine dining or Michelin-star restaurants along with meeting some home chefs when I am in a new city. I think that getting that kind of exposure for your palette is great. Once I’m back home, I always try things from the city I visited—like after recently holidaying in Abu Dhabi, I made a whole series of Middle Eastern food. Travelling is a great teacher and you get to learn a lot.”
HELLO!: What is your one cooking ritual that you swear by?
AD: “It’s just this thing I’ve been doing forever, everytime I’m cooking—I add a little bit of butter and oil. Normally, most people just cook in oil but because most of my recipes are not heavy on fats and aren’t oily, I’d like to use half a teaspoon of butter for a tablespoon of oil. Adding butter to your dishes always adds a little bit of creaminess which I absolutely love.”
HELLO!: Can you tell us a little bit about the dish you will be preparing for us?
AD: “I am making a really simple but flavorful and healthy snack that is perfect for the festive season when we are overstuffed with greasy and fattening food. This rajma kebab has a really nice essence of aroma because of the garam masala that I have used. It is almost like a galouti kebab because of its softness, but I’ve also made it slightly crispy on the outside with the help of the coating of samak ke chawal as the millets make these kebabs even healthier. Yummy and super easy to make, it’s perfect for whenever you have some leftover rajma at home. It’s a great addition to add to your festive table because the humble bean has so much to offer even though we often overlook it.”
So, without further ado, here is how you can make Chef Anahita Dhondy’s festive special Rajma Kebabs at home
- Boiled Rajma - 1 cup
- Hung Curd - 2 tbsp
- Chopped Ginger - 1 tsp
- Chopped Green chillies - 2
- Chopped Onion - 1/2
- Chopped Coriander - 1 tbsp
- Coriander Powder - ½ tsp
- Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
- Cumin Powder - ½ tsp
- Garam Masala Powder - 1/2 tsp
- Barnyard Millet or Bread Crumbs- 1/4 cup
- Salt To Taste
Step 1: In a mixer grinder, add the Rajma and blend it with the hung curd.
Step 2: Then, pour the mixture into a bowl and add all the masalas and chopped ingredients.
Step 3: Add some salt for taste, mix well, and roll the mixture into small tikkis.
Step 4: Coat the tikkis with millet and shallow fry them until they’re golden and crispy.
Step 5: Once they are ready, let them cool down for a bit and then serve them with a side of mint chutney. Enjoy!