What to eat when you're sick of Yom Tov food... (hint: Israeli-style Indian!)
When I was little, my father went to India for a few weeks with his best friend. There was some sort of classic Bollywood plot -- an arranged marriage for the friend which needed to be thwarted so he could marry the love of his life back in Toronto, something like that.
The actual plot doesn't matter. What matters is that he came home with a love of all things Indian, from delicate little nose rings to Bollywood cinema to the delicious, flavourful treats he'd eaten all over the country. We were lucky because Toronto had a nice little Indian village where you could browse in sari shops before or after eating your fill of spicy curries and savoury flatbreads of all kinds, topped off with an unbelievable fudge my brother and I couldn't stop making fun of because of its unfortunate name: Barfi.
Yes, there is an actual dessert with the word "barf" in it. As tiny tots,we could barely believe how hilarious this was. Now, to be fair, when you say it, it comes out sounding a little more like "burfi" than "barfi." But for whatever reason, it's almost always spelled with the "a" and of course, as ignorant Canadian kids, we pronounced it that way, too.
Which didn't mean we weren't intrigued. Barfi is basically fudge, but it's an intensely milky style of fudge that's often served with a delicate layer of edible silver or gold in the bottom, sliced into pristine diamonds and sprinkled with pistachios (which, honestly, I could do without).
Suffice to say that barfi, gulab jamun, jalebi, and all the other amazing sweets at the end of those meals cemented my love of Indian food pretty strongly.
Fast forward to today. I love having only 1 day of Yom Tov here in Israel, but sometimes, when there's such a short break and Yom Tov comes in right on the heels of Shabbos, you get pretty sick of festive eating.
So I'd like to recommend some spicier varieties of flavours to shake loose the complacency of one dull Ashkenazi chicken meal after another. Lots of Indian dishes can be made without meat, as well, so go wild. And for those which are made with meat, I have come to adore what coconut does to the creamy curry dishes that are usually made with ordinary milk or yogurt.
Here’s our sample first-night-of-Sukkos Indian-style menu:
- Homemade on Yom Tov white-flour flatbreads / chapatti
- Easy potato-pea samosas with “cigar” pastry (will post recipe / method when I have a moment of leisure…)
- Crispy Sago Fritters (I don’t have the right pearl-style tapioca, so I’m not sure it’ll work out properly) (post-script – not really, tasty but gluey & weird!)
- Easy chicken curry – based on this but with extra ginger / garlic and other savoury stuff, because it looks very bland
- Plain white basmati rice to soak it all up
- And of course, Barfi… for tomorrow’s lunch, when we can have dairy.
We’ve also done Sukkos lunch with a pareve potato-pea curry. Another really good and easy curry idea is tomato and spinach (palak) – with frozen spinach and canned tomatoes, it goes together super-fast right after shul. You can make either one with extra-firm tofu or with nuggets of crisped-up Israeli challoumi cheese as a stand-in for the Indian paneer… or really, whatever you have handy.
If you have milk powder (hard to get in Israel; I buy it online) and you're not eating meat, I recommend finishing up with either this classic 4-ingredient barfi from Vegetarian Indian Recipes. Forget that it has the word “barf” in it – just think of it as fudge. This barfi is a canvas for whatever flavours you want to add. Toss cardamom into the sugar syrup, or almond extract, or rose water. Sprinkle it with toasted pistachios, almonds, or whatever you feel like adding. (You can even buy sheets of ultra-thin edible silver and gold on Aliexpress!)
I don’t claim that the Indian foods I cook are authentic. But on top of the India town experiences my father treated us to, I also had an Indian best friend growing up for a few years and was fortunate enough to enjoy many meals with her family, cooked super-authentically by her real Indian grandmother, who’d stand and make the chapatti all afternoon, it seemed like. I figure if the Indian-style food I cook is half good enough to bring back some of those memories, it’s good enough for me.
And if you’re as tired of the Ashkenazi Yom Tov chicken-and-potato-and-beef staples as I am, hopefully it’s good enough for you, too. And please share your own Indian-style Yom Tov favourites in the comments to inspire me for the next chag!!!