Diwali festival is one of India’s brightest, largest, and most important festivals of the year, and spiritually signifies the triumph of good over evil.
Diwali festival is mentioned in sanskrit scriptures from the second half of the first millennia such as Padma Purana and the Skanda Purana. These are thought to have been expanded from a core text from an earlier era. The ‘Diyas’ lamps, after which the festival derives its name, are mentioned in Skanda Purana and are said to represent parts of the sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life. The festival is celebrated in India after the summer harvest in the hindu calender month of Kartika.
Before researching for this entry I had no idea about any of this. I’d heard the name Diwali thrown around a bit on social media, but was largely ignorant to its relevance. So when presented with this wee assignment I was left scratching my head. What do I know about religious festivals from exotic countries? Or for that matter any religious festivals, as I have spent the better part of my life actively maintaining my ignorance on such matters.
Something I have a good working knowledge of however is drinking at bars, far less repressed guilt involved, and far more beers! So, days out from my deadline I found myself, not doing research, but drinking! On this occasion however my chronic avoidance of responsibility actually worked out for the better. Whilst attending a farewell party for some good friends recently, I found myself verbally molesting anyone who would give my ramblings the time of day, when my girlfriend got the genius idea to ask one of her acquaintances for some insight. Based on the sole fact that she was of Indian ethnic origin, we took a punt, and, lets face it, we got lucky. So a big thanks to Shruti for going to the effort to type the names of her favourite Diwali sweets (Mithai) into my phone, as I was clearly too inebriated to remember anything she could tell me at that point. Here are the two that sounded the tastiest, and the ones I had the best shot at pronouncing clearly. Dhan’yavāda (Cheers!)
- 300g sugar
- 375g water
- 4 cardomon pods ground into a fine powder
- zest of half an orange
Combine all the ingredients in a pots and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook or another 5 minutes to allow the essential oils from the zest to infuse into the syrup.
- 50g flour
- 100g milk powder
- a pinch of baking soda
- 40g butter
- 63g milk
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Using your hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until well combined. Mix in the milk to form the dough. Rub oil into your hands and knead the dough, it will be quite sticky. Divide the dough into 10, 25g pieces and roll them into balls. Meanwhile preheat a deep fryer to 160ºc. Drop the dough balls into the deep fryer, being careful not to over crowd the fryer basket. Fry until golden, the balls should double in size, turning the balls regularly to insure even browning. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Allow to cool slightly and then drop into the warm (not hot) syrup. Allow the balls to steep int the syrup for at least 20mins before serving. We chucked some maple and macadamia ice cream on top which, while not very traditional, was a magical combination! Smash it!
- 160g besan flour (chickpea flour)
- a pinch of baking soda
- a pinch of salt
- 180g water
- 20g cashew nuts
- 40g raisins chopped
- 5 cloves, ground into a fine powder.
- A pinch of ground nutmeg
Preheat the deep fryer to 150ºc. Sieve the dry batter ingredients together and whisk in the water to form the batter. Pour the better through a colander into the oil, be sure to hold the colander at least 40cm away from the oil to insure you get nice round balls and not shitty, sperm shaped things! Cook for around 1 min and drain on paper towels. Tip into a large bowl and mix in the filling ingredients.
- 400g sugar
- 200g water
Combine all in a pot and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook out until soft ball consistency is achieved, that is when you dip a spoon into the syrup and the drips leave threads of sugar after falling. Allow the syrup to cool for 10 minutes then pour the syrup over the fried batter mix and stir together quickly. Wearing 2 pairs of rubber gloves to protect from the heat, form the mix into tight little balls, moving quickly before the sugar cools to much as it will crystallize and no longer stick together. Allow to cool and eat it! These will last 3-4 days and a sealed container at room temperature.