The second stop in The Meat-ting Place’s Around the World series is India, where preparations for Diwali are underway.
Diwali is the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. The festival coincides with the Hindu New Year and celebrates new beginnings, the triumph of good over evil and lightness over darkness.
The festival usually falls between the middle of October and the middle of November, in line with the Hindu lunar calendar. Houses are cleaned and decorated with candles and colourful lights, and huge firework displays are held while families feast and exchange gifts.
Food is usually prepared in the family home, and around a month before the festival starts, women gather in each other’s kitchens to make Diwali snacks. Sweets are the main dishes prepared, and different specialty meals are also traditionally cooked on different days of the festival. Each family celebrating Diwali will more than likely have its own favourite meal for the festival, and the food plays a large role in the celebrations.
On the fourth day of celebrations, friends and families exchange gifts and sweets, and they also create Annakut: mountains of food arranged in large tiers or shapes representing India’s Mount Govardhan.
How to Celebrate Diwali at Home
If you’d like a taste of Diwali in your own home, there are a few simple things you can do. Many Australians get involved with Diwali because of its universal theme of light triumphing over darkness, and it is said that this theme can also apply to the light in our hearts.
Traditional activities include spring-cleaning your house, shopping for gold and silver, and offering sweets and prayers to the Gods, so get out the vacuum, buy yourself some bling and offer up your favourite dessert! Some people also decorate their homes with lamps and candles.
Get together with some friends and enjoy some traditional Indian meals and sweets! We’ve included a couple of recipes to get you started!
EASY INDIAN RECIPES TO COOK AT HOME FOR DIWALI
COCONUT (NARIYA) BURFI
2 Cups Fresh Grated Coconut
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 tsp Freshly Crushed Cardamom
1/2 tbsp Chopped Cashew nuts
1 tsp Ghee
– Heat ghee in a pan and fry cashew nuts until golden brown. Put aside. Grease a plate or tray and put aside.
– In the same pan add grated coconut and sugar. Mix well and cook on low to medium heat.
– Keeping stirring the mixture until sugar melts and you can see water released from coconut.
– Stir constantly until coconut mixture starts to come together. Press coconut with your spatula to check if any water remains. If you see water then keep cooking and stirring.
– Add cardamom/elachi powder, cashew nuts and mix well. You can see coconut mixture will start to change colour now from pure white to light cream. Turn off heat.
– Immediately pour mixture onto greased plate or tray and level it with a spatula or knife. You can use baking paper or aluminium foil to give it a smooth finish while levelling, or leave it as is.
– Let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes, then cut into squares while the mixture is still warm.
– Allow to cool completely. Gently remove coconut squares with a knife and store in an airtight container.
SWEET POTATO AND GOAT’S CHEESE SAMOSAS
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, plus more to sprinkle
400g sweet potato, diced into small cubes
200g soft goat’s cheese, chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
2 tablespoons coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 whole red chilli, deseeded if you like, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 garlic cloves, crushed
125g unsalted butter
270g filo pastry
Rock salt, to sprinkle
Unlike most samosas, these aren’t fried. This both makes them healthier and somehow intensifies the flavour of the filling. Cinnamon is fabulous with sweet potato.
Place the 1 teaspoon cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and toast until golden and fragrant. Remove to a mortar and crush with a pestle. Put the sweet potato in a pan, cover with water and add salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for six to eight minutes until tender. Drain and cool. Place in a bowl and mix with the cheese, spring onions, coriander, chilli, chilli flakes, crushed cumin, cinnamon and garlic. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Melt the butter. Lay a sheet of filo on a work surface and brush with butter. Place a second sheet on top to fit over the first. Brush this with butter too. Cut into strips about 5cm wide. Spoon 1 heaped teaspoon of filling into one corner. Fold the right corner of the strip over to the left side to create a triangle. Continue to fold the triangle along the strip to the end, cutting off surplus pastry. Repeat to use up all the pastry and filling. Brush liberally with butter and sprinkle with cumin seeds and rock salt. Bake for 12–15 minutes, until golden.