Apart from the sweets and savouries which are eaten at Diwali, the main meals vary depending on the region of India.
Traditionally, different foods are eaten on the different days of the festival. On the first day, a sweet similar to fudge, made with semolina, cardamom, saffron, nuts and raisins, is eaten as well as a spicy bean curry. Some Hindus fast all day on the second day and at sunset eat a cracked wheat porridge sweetened with sugar. On the third day lentil fritters and Indian rice pudding might be eaten but on Diwali day itself and the following, New Years Day, huge banquets are prepared.
The women spend many days, prior to the festival itself, preparing food, usually in groups. Much of this time is spent making the snack and sweet foods of which the Indians are so fond but as the actual Diwali day approaches, attentions are turned to the major feast.
A Diwali feast would normally be vegetarian due to the vast number of non-meat eaters, both Hindu and non-Hindu throughout India. Typical dishes might be:
* Channa - chick peas and potatoes simmered in a sauce of sautéed onions, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, garlic, fresh ginger, ground coriander and cumin, garam masala, cayenne, mace, nutmeg, turmeric and chopped tomatoes.
* Navratan Korma - a rich mild vegetable curry of paneer, carrots, beans, peas, cauliflower, raisins, cashews and tomatoes, flavoured with bay leaves and coriander.
* Khasta Aloo - cubed par-boiled potatoes fried with cumin seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, fresh green chillies and fresh ginger paste, garnished with lime juice and chopped fresh coriander.
* Malaiwale Subzi Kofta Curry - diced cabbage and spinach flavoured with ground cumin, turmeric, garam masala and salt, bound together with gram flour and fried. This is served with a rich spicy gravy of onions, tomatoes, chillies and thick cream.
* Nariyal Aur Badam Wale Chawal - Basmati rice and coconut pulp cooked in coconut milk, with the additional flavourings of two different pastes. The first is sliced almonds, green chillies, garlic, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamoms, fried in ghee and ground to a pulp with the coconut. The second is mustard seeds, curry leaves and onions, fried in oil.
* Dal Maharani which combines three different sorts of pulses with onions, tomatoes, green chillies, ginger and flavourings.
* Sag Dal - yellow split peas mixed with spinach, fried onion, garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric, garam masala and fresh ginger, garnished with chopped coriander.
* Pooris - wheat flour bread rounds, deep fried until they puff up into a ball.
* Raita - plain yoghurt whisked until smooth and mixed with raw onion, cucumber, cumin and coriander powder and cayenne pepper.
* Various pickles and chutneys
* Kheer - a type of rice pudding made with milk as well as condensed milk and decorated with chopped nuts or mixed with orange zest and chopped orange.
Of course, these examples are not exhaustive. Any dishes not eaten as a normal every day meal would be considered special enough for Diwali.
About the author: Liz Canham:
Author: Liz Canham
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