Diwali is one of the most joyous, vibrant and colourful celebrations of the year.
The word ‘Diwali’ means ‘row of lighted lamps’. For many Indians this five day festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.
It is known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ because houses, shops and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas. These are lit to guide Lakshmi into people’s homes.
The Diwali festival celebrates the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, although the actual legends that go with the festival vary in different parts of India.
In northern India and elsewhere, Diwali celebrates Rama’s return from fourteen years of exile to Ayodhya after the defeat of Ravana and his subsequent coronation as king.
In Gujarat, the festival honours Lakshmi. In Nepal, Diwali commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakaasura. In Bengal, it is associated with the goddess Kali.
In India some people will leave their windows and doors open so that Lakshmi can come in. Rangoli (patterns made of coloured powder or coloured rice) are drawn on the floors to symbolise the festival. One of the more popular designs is the lotus flower.
The notion of Diwali food is very broad, as there are many different dishes that are cooked up.
A few weeks before the festival starts, women get together in each other’s kitchens in turns to make the all-important Diwali snacks.
This is very much a social activity, with older generations serving up plenty of different dishes and the younger generations keeping the tradition alive by making at least a few and learning the ropes.
Most people outside the subcontinent are unfamiliar with common Diwali foods. So what are some of the dishes eaten at Diwali? Here a few recipes to give you an idea:
- 10 Saffron strands
- 6 green cardamom pods, seeds only
- 100g desiccated coconut and extra to coat
- 7 tbsp condensed milk
- Soak the saffron threads in half a teaspoon of warm water and crush the cardamom seeds with a mortar and pestle. Blitz the coconut in a processor to a coarse powder.
- Pour the condensed milk into a small, preferably non-stick pan about 18cm in diameter and set it over a medium heat. Warm it for 2 minutes, then stir in the saffron and its water.
- Sprinkle in the cardamom and stir for 1 minute, then add the coconut, incorporating it thoroughly and quickly into a thick, sticky paste.
- Stir continuously until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan into a ball.
- Remove from the heat and cool until it is comfortable to touch. With wet hands, take small pieces of the mixture, each about the size of a large hazelnut, and roll into a ball.
- Dredge each ball in coconut powder to coat it well. It can now be eaten or stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
As an extra treat, omit the coconut coating and dunk half the barfi in melted chocolate, allowing it to set before serving.
- 140g Semiya/Vermicelli
- 120ml Water
- 100g Sugar
- Half a pinch of Saffron Strands
- 2 tsp warm Milk?10 Cashews, halved
- 10 – 15 Raisins
- 2 tbsp Ghee
- 3 Cardamoms
- ??5 – 10 finely sliced Almonds
- ?Crushed Cardamom seeds
- One or two strands of Saffron
- Soak saffron in warm milk.
- Heat half the ghee in a kadhai (wok) and add the cashews and slightly toss them until they turn golden. Add in the raisins and fry them too.
- Keep it aside and add the remaining ghee.
- Add the semolina, and lightly roast it in the ghee till light brown. Take care not to burn it.
- Boil some water. Add the boiling water to the roasted semiya and let it cook for 3-4 minutes and add the sugar and crushed cardamoms.
- Let the water evaporate until the semolina gets cooked.
- Mix in the fried dry fruits and add the saffron. Toss the semolina once.
- For garnish put the semolina in a serving bowl and sprinkle the chopped almonds and crushed cardamom seeds. Place the saffron strands carefully on top and serve warm.
- Serve it hot/warm or at room temperature.
- 500g Cashew nut powder
- 200g sugar
- 5-6 strands saffron (kesar)
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 6-8 leaves silver foil wrap
- Dissolve the sugar into three/four cups of water and bring it to boil.
- Add saffron and cook until it forms a syrup of three thread consistency.
- Melt ghee and add this to syrup.
- Add cashew nut powder and mix thoroughly.
- Set aside to cool slightly. Knead it well and roll into half centimeter thick rectangle.
- Spread silver varq over it and cut into diamond shape of approximately one and half inch a side.
Diwali is one of the most joyous, vibrant and colourful celebrations of the year and is accompanied by great food.
For people who love to cook it is a time to tap into their creative side and experiment in the kitchen and for those who have an artistic side to try their hand at rangoli. It is also perfect, well-spent family time. DESIblitz wishes you all a very happy Diwali!