This year, early November offers you two choice festivals: Bonfire Night and Diwali. In one, we burn effigies of a centuries-old failed revolutionary as a brutal reminder that we are for ever doomed to struggle under the unknowable power of the state. And then there’s Diwali, a five-day-long celebration observed by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists, created to symbolise “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”. Which, you know, does sort of sound better. So, what should you eat for Diwali? Here are 10 Diwali recipes for your delectation.
For the most part, Diwali calls for sweets. And, although this list won’t be solely dedicated to them, it’s honestly hard not to jump in with both feet when they are as tremendous as Monisha Bharadwaj’s chocolate barfi. Given that a barfi is a solid cube of condensed milk, it doesn’t require too many ingredients. A tin of condensed milk, some cocoa powder and a handful of chopped nuts for good luck. People can be put off by the complexity of some Diwali dishes, but barfi is proof that this isn’t always the case.
The carrot halwa, as perfected by Felicity Cloake four years ago, sounds like it has a sheen of healthiness. But do not be deceived: not only does a halwa require a shedload of evaporated milk, it also has two types of sugar. Grate a bunch of carrots and fry them with cardamom, then add the milk and sugar along with some dried fruits. Once it has dried out a little, this is a beautifully buttery treat.
Curiously, the Guardian’s 2007 recipe for pistachio kulfi is anonymous, but that doesn’t make it any less great. Or less easy to make, for that matter. Boil some milk and sugar, chuck in some chopped nuts, and freeze. Just like that, you have an all-time classic dessert.
Originating in Tamil Nadu, murukku – deep-fried rice twists – are another Diwali staple. Traditionally, they take a lot of effort to make, because the rice has to be soaked, dried and ground. However, Padhu’s Kitchen has a recipe for butter murukku that uses rice flour instead, which requires a lot less faff. That said, you do still need to buy a murukku maker, a sort of gleaming metal dough press, to form them into the correct shape, but you can pick them up for about £20 online. If you’re going to make murukku a tradition, it’s a wise investment.
Pretty much every cuisine in the world has some variation on a pastry dumpling. Some are filled with meat, others with vegetables. The north Indian version, gujiya, is filled with milk solids sweetened with sugar and nuts. Press a dollop of the mixture into a palm-sized circle of pastry, and seal into a semicircle. Gujiya can be baked, but Diwali only comes around once a year so, what the hell, you might as well deep-fry them.
Listen, we’ve already deep-fried a bunch of stuff today, so why stop. Medu vada are deep-fried south Indian doughnut-shaped lentil fritters. And, for once, these aren’t sweet; as per Hebbar’s Kitchen’s recipe, you season them with ginger, coriander, chillies and curry leaves. They may look dense but, if done correctly, these are crispy, fluffy and gorgeous.
I hate the fact that I only discovered chivda when assembling a roundup of recipes that use cornflakes. Hopefully I can rectify that anomaly by offering you a more traditional version of this crispy grazing snack. Cook With Manali’s chivda is made with poha (flattened rice) that is baked in a single thin layer, crushed a little and mixed with a range of ingredients. Manali adds peanuts, cashews, raisins, turmeric and chilli powder, but what you add will be down to individual taste.
From the south-west Indian state of Karnataka comes nippattu, a spicy rice cracker. Indian Healthy Recipe’s version is made from a combination of ground peanut, coconut, gram flour and rice flour. This is seasoned with curry leaves and chilli powder, rolled into a ball, flattened and then – you guessed it – deep-fried.
A Diwali recipe roundup would be incomplete without gulab jamun. A treat too sweet even for my infant palate, gulab jamun are small balls of dough made from milk solids, which are deep-fried and then boiled in syrup. Veg Recipes of India calls for syrup sweetened with rosewater. Delicious, but don’t expect to wolf too many down in one go.
And then we have jalebi, which in many ways is a thrilling mixture of everything we have covered up to this point. Is there a floury batter? Yes. Do you deep-fry the batter? Yes. Do you then remove the batter and soak it in sugar syrup? Yes. Could you eat a billion of these without even noticing? Also yes. Happy Diwali, everyone.