A Delicious Diwali Menu to Help Fight Away The Darkness
The festival of lights, Diwali, is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Buddhists. The festival is marked by the lighting of lamps, prayers, firework displays, rangoli designs and, of course, feasting with friends and family.
There are many different takes on the festival, according to different religious traditions and regions of the subcontinent. The most commonly told story is that lamps, known as Diya, were lit to illuminate the way home for the god Rama as he returned to India after defeating the demon Ravana and rescuing his wife, goddess Sita, on the island of Lanka.
There are many other stories behind the festival, but broadly they all adopt the idea of light representing spiritual illumination dispelling darkness and ignorance. If you’re thinking of a Diwali feast – whether it’s lunch or dinner – here’s a menu of recipes for you to try.
Tamarind Paneer with Mint, Parsley and Apple Chutney
Grilled marinated paneer with a delicious homemade chutney is a perfect nibble before you get started on your main course. The tangy, sour-sweet taste of the tamarind really brings the paneer to life, while the addition of the herb-packed, spicy apple chutney is a vibrant, fresh pick me up.
Pakoras are an incredibly versatile fritter as you can pretty much put anything inside (here we use potato, onion, carrot and cauliflower). Top tip: make sure the water added to your batter is cold as this will reduce the amount of oil they absorb and make them crispier. You might like to try our coriander chutney or banana chutney as an accompaniment.
Sometimes spelled chaat, chat literally means to lick or to taste, and these savoury snacks from chef and author Nisha Katona are very tasty indeed. You first make pani-puri style puri – small breads that are fried until they have risen into a sort of crispy flying saucer – then you fill them with a super tasty tamarind chutney and take a flight into tamarind heaven.
Dal comes in all shapes and sizes, or rather with many different pulses and spice combinations. It’s so popular in the UK that there is even a British Dal Festival. This version is from chef and author Ed Smith. His dal is made with yellow split peas (one of the types of pulse that are grown in the UK) with a tomato base, which you can then adapt to make your own with three different serving suggestions.
Black-eyed Bean and Mushroom Curry
This hearty vegan dal from GBBO alumni and Guardian Feast writer Chetna Makan has a distinctly autumnal feel. The earthiness of the black-eyed beans and gentle umami taste of the chestnut mushrooms are offset by the creaminess of coconut milk and acidic sweetness of the tomatoes. It is perfectly suited to a dark night (that is illuminated by light).
Butter Chicken Curry
Butter chicken is loved around the globe but is actually a relatively recent invention. It was created by two New Delhi restaurateurs Kundan Lal Jaggi and Kundan Lal Gujral in the 1970s who wondered what to do with leftover tandoori chicken. This version can be ready in just 40 minutes, although we’d suggest at least two hours marinating time.
Paul Heathcote’s Quick Vegetable Curry
There’ll be a lot going on at Diwali and this curry is a bit of a lifesaver as it’s so quick to make. This curry is the work of Michelin-star winning chef Paul Heathcote. Made with chickpeas and spinach, or chana and sag, the meal can be ready in just 15 minutes. What a result.
Roasted Butternut Squash Curry with Garlic and Tomatoes
Chef, author and Guardian Feast writer Meera Sodha says that the ‘squash family are an Indian cook’s best friend’. This is because they keep their shape in a sauce, they work well with chilli and they usually feed a whole family. Roasting also caramelizes the sugars in the squash for a sweeter flavour.
Indian Spiced New Potato and Cauliflower Curry
Tasty and good value, this dish gets a lovely crunchy, spicy feel from the fried mustard and fennel seeds. Potatoes and cauliflower, aka aloo gobi, is a stalwart sabzi (vegetable curry). It’s simple but effective and there’ll always be plenty of people pleased that you’ve prepared their favourite sabzi.
Gujarati Corn on the Cob Curry
This meal is also from Meera Sodha, who says that it’s a favourite of her granny. Sweetcorn is not often found in curries in the UK, but it is an ingredient we ignore at our peril, because it’s delicious. The Gujarati makai sabzi (Gujarati sweetcorn vegetable curry) is a creamy, nutty delight.
Sesame Ladoo or Coconut, Cardamom and Saffron Ladoo
Ladoos are one of the most iconic Indian sweets. Indeed some place their origin back to the ancient Indus valley civilization of 4,500 years ago. There are many regional varieties of ladoo, but the key ingredients are flour, sugar and oil. These ladoo use the natural oils and floury consistency of the ground sesame seeds and crushed pistachio, while sugar is provided by the condensed milk. A perfect offering.
The coconut ladoo is popular in South India and is similar to the great British treat, coconut ice. Containing only three ingredients, they are simple. And as they only take 10 minutes to prepare, you’ll have more time to prepare other goodies.
Baked Coconut Rice Pudding with Passion Fruit Curd
Rice pudding, also known as kheer, is another recipe that is loved across both the subcontinent and the UK. It ticks all the boxes for a comfort food – it’s sweet, stodgy and easy to eat (and make). Even better, if you have any left over, you can eat it cold.
Coconut, Mango and Banana Smoothies
You might call this a vegan lassi. You will definitely enjoy drinking it. And as it only has a five minute preparation time, you’ll be very chuffed that something so delicious is so easy to make.
If you thought that hot toddy is a traditional winter whisky-based drink, you’d only be half right. Toddy is the South Indian name for palm wine. By the 18th century the British had adopted the name for a drink flavoured with Indian spices such as cinnamon and cloves. This one is alcohol free and very warming on a cold November’s night.
DIY Chai Latte
A hot drink naturally follows a meal, and for Diwali it will have to be chai. This recipe uses a masala mix of fresh ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. Your night will not be not be complete without it.
Still need some inspiration? Why not head over to our Diwali shop and get everything you need to celebrate the festival of lights in style.