Aside from the shift to heartier meals at the turn of Autumn, October is a particularly exciting time in Indian culture, as it welcomes the festival of Diwali. If you haven’t heard of it, Diwali is the much-anticipated festival of lights that is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all over the world. Lasting around five days, Diwali symbolises the victory of good over evil, or how light conquers darkness. It is associated with Ganesh and the power of knowledge and wisdom, as well as the goddess of Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity.
In the lead-up to Diwali, which is usually celebrated on the third day of the festive period and the darkest day of the month, followers of the faith spiritually prepare their homes by cleaning and decorating, usually with oil lamps and rangolis, which are traditional and artistic circle patterns. This is a time when people dress to impress, invite their loved ones round and partake in family feasts. As it’s a festival of light, it is in fact considered good luck to leave a light on overnight on the darkest day.
Plenty of traditional dishes are prepared for the festivities, some of which are staples at Shakinah. If you’d like to experience Diwali with us this year, we’ll make sure you don’t miss out on the best treats of the festival. Here are a few family favourites for Diwali:
Cauliflower and Paneer Pakora
Many who celebrate Diwali follow the tradition of not consuming meat during these five days, so you’ll find our selection today to be quite vegetarian. Nevertheless, it is certainly a festival of good eats. After all, it is also a celebration of the harvest. Two such staples are cauliflower and paneer pakora, with each of these ingredients enveloped in a gram flour batter flavoured with Indian spices, then deep fried to perfection.
Naturally, paneer is an excellent alternative filler to meat, and everything about it is delightful. Think of it as a salty Indian cottage cheese. Our paneer tikka merges cheesy goodness with a timeless Indian mise-en-place. Cubes of homemade cheese are marinated in ginger, garlic paste and yoghurt, then garnished with green peppers and fresh onions. Plenty of flavour here.
This dish has been a family favourite in Indian homes for generations, and if you’ve only just discovered paneer and can’t get enough of it, this recipe is a must. The paneer is cubed into bite-sized pieces, then smothered and cooked with a purée of fresh spinach and Indian spices.
It’s very much all about the finger food at Diwali household celebrations. Aloo Tikki are an excellent pick-me-up of boiled potatoes which are crumbled and flavoured with fresh coriander and ginger, then breaded and fried in ghee. What’s not to love?
Don’t be afraid to keep it vegetarian. Biryanis are a staple among family gatherings, as they’re usually made to share. We select the freshest veg, then spice it up for maximum flavour. This is then immersed in a bed of perfectly cooked basmati rice.