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According to Chinese traditional calendar, Chinese New Year 2011 is year of the rabbit. The New Year celebrations reflect the belief of Chinese people on gods, spirits of ancestors, legendary beings and animal spirits. Part of the festivities include the traditional lion and dragon dance, held in the streets of Chinatown as well as in some of the bigger shopping malls like Phoenix Les Halles and Le Caudan, to ward off evil spirits. Large numbers of firecrackers are also set off at midnight for the same purpose.

The other important aspect of CNY is, of course, food. Families and friends come together for big feasts. The venue usually is at the home of the most senior member of the family. CNY dinner is a very sumptuous affair and traditionally includes foods that are consumed to bring in wealth and good fortune. Noodles, chicken and fish [eaten whole], dumplings, spring rolls and mandarin oranges are typically among those that feature on the menu.

The celebration is never complete without gato lacire/nian gao, a steamed cake made from glutinous rice and brown sugar. Other sweets like gato zinzli and gato crabe are among those to be distrubed to relatives and friends. Read more about CNY food traditions on my friend Cindy’s blog where you can also find a variety of Mauritian, Indian and Chinese dishes.

Last year I celebrated CNY with Chinese Smiling Cupcakes and for 2011, I made a batch of gato zinzli along with some crisp sipek/prawn crackers. The recipe for these yummy Glutinous Rice & Sweet Potato Balls is from Ti Pomme D’amour – a food blog co-hosted by Manju, Kit, Carine, Angele and Jaimie. Thank you girls!

GATO ZINZLI

 

Ingredients:

500 g glutinous rice flour

500 g sweet potatoes

3-4 tbs raw brown sugar

1/2 cup sesame seeds

Method:

  • Boil the sweet potatoes in a large pan of water with their skin on. Cool slightly in pan before you peel them.
  • Mash sweet potatoes until you have a thick gooey mess.

 

  • Add sugar and enough glutinous flour to make a dough.
  • Pinch off dough to form small walnut-size balls.
  • Roll the balls in sesame seed so that they are evenly coated.

 

  • Heat oil in a wok until  and deep fry until golden in colour.
  • Drain well on absorbent paper before serving. Makes 20.
  • Store in an airtight container but best eaten on same day.

 

Wishing all my readers luck and prosperity for the coming year!

Diwali, fête de lumière et de partage, is one of the important celebrations of the Hindu calendar. While the festival of lights heralds the return of Lord Ram to his kingdom Ayodhya after vanquishing the evil Raavan, the festivities worldwide are usually centred around the lighting of diyas/earthen lamps and the preparation of homemade indian sweets.

No matter how many sweets one plans to make on Diwali, gato batate always tops the list.  This deep fried mithai with shredded coconut filling is the traditional diwali sweet here in Mauritius.   

Though it calls for few simple ingredients, the making of gato batate is a tiring process. You should have good quality sweet potatoes to start with. I do not know how to sort out them out myself so I wnt be of much help here. Either get someone to buy them or seek your grocer’s opinion or grow your own.

Once you are done with selecting the sweet potatoes, you should enlist extra pairs of helping hands to assist you in the different steps. It is a good opportunity for every family member to become engaged in a common activity which brings about a feeling of togetherness on this auspicious occasion.

This blog entry is specially dedicated to my reader from Botswana who requested the recipe for gato batate some time back. I seriously wish I had time to post this earlier but I guess you can bookmark it for next year’s diwali.

GATO BATATE

 

Ingredients:

For the Dough

1 1/2 kg sweet potatoes

1 1/2 – 2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup refined white sugar

For the Filling

2 whole coconuts, husk removed

1 cup refined white sugar

3 cups oil, for frying

Method:

  • Boil sweet potatoes, with skin on, in a large pan until soft. You should be able to easily prick them with a fork when done but they should not be mushy. Drain and set aside.
  • Leave to cool to room temperature. Peel sweet potatoes with a vegetable peeler or simply pick the skin away with fingers [if you haven’t got your nails done yet].

 

  • Crumble sweet potato on a large flat dish or surface. Mash well until you get a smooth texture. This will take some time as you will encounter lotsa lumps during this process.
  • Once you manage to get a decent paste-like consistency, add the sugar. Carefully work it into the dough.

 

  • You will notice that your smooth mixture will turn a hell lot more sticky that it was before. It’s now time for the flour.
  • The amount of flour you require usually depends on the initial level of moisture of your sweet potatoes. Which is why you need to get good quality ones. The best crop is one with low moisture levels so that you need to add less flour.

 

  • Your dough gets more tough with every extra tbs of flour as you try to bring together this sticky sugary mess. Knead well until your fist leaves clean imprints in the dough. It should be soft and supple, something like modelling clay/plasticine. Set aside as you move on to prepare the filling.

  • For this, coarsely grate coconut in a food processor or manually. Add sugar and mix well until evenly distributed. You may wish to add raisins or chopped nuts but I like to keep it simple.
  • Divide dough into large balls. Dip each in flour and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of less than 1cm.

 

  • Using a large cookie cutter [5″ diameter] or a thin rimmed glass, punch out large circles from the rolled out dough.
  • Put scraps together and repeat until you use up all of the dough. Wrap dough in clingfilm and store in fridge if you decide to continue on another day should you get tired.

 

  • If not, grab a teaspoon and start filling your circles of dough with the coconut-sugar mixture.
  • Please do not be tempted to overfill your gato batates. You not only find it difficult to seal the filling inside but you may have the nasty experience of seeing it ooze out while frying.

 

  • Fold each circle into half to enclose the coconut mixture and press apposed edges with a fork. You may use a pastry tool as I do to speed up the process and also for the fancy look.
  • In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium.  Run a test batch first to adjust to the correct cooking temperature.

 

  • Fry your gato batates until golden brown. Remove and drain excess oil on absorbent paper. Cool to room temperature before you pack them along with other home made sweets to share with family and friends.

 

Wishing all my readers a very Happy Diwali!

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PrerrnaMirchi
Mauritius

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