This week is the return of the joyful Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.
Diwali is celebrated to celebrate the return of King Rama from exile and the symbolic victory of good over evil. It is also common to worship the goddess Lakshmi, who visits homes to bless them with wealth and prosperity. With lit terracotta slides and festive lights, great joy with friends and loved ones, and breathtaking new clothes, this is also a time of sugar and ghee consumption.
Typically, the food that Hindus consume during this opportune time is vegetarian. The special thing about this time, however, are the delicious, savory and sweet snacks that are served at home and distributed among friends and family. These usually come from an experienced Halwai expert or snack maker in a store. For good reason. However, if you feel like working with Diwali this year, there are three kitchen and supermarket-friendly versions of popular snacks that you can try at home.
Badam Katli – Almond Fudge (pronounced Cut-Lee)
Half cup of white sugar
2 cups ground almonds
1.25 cups of warm water
Half tsp powdered green cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons of ghee
6 squares of white chocolate (optional)
Put the sugar in a strong-bottomed wok and add a cup of water. Bring to a boil over a very high heat, and when it gushes violently lower the heat to a medium level.
Gently bubble into a syrup consistency that is stirred from time to time. It is very important to get this syrup consistency as the fudge will not get the right texture. This process takes about 15 minutes. Next, mix the powdered cardamom and the ground almonds each half cup, breaking the resulting lumps.
Then stir in the ghee and the remaining water. You should get a thick paste. Stir for a few minutes until it becomes a dough. Turn off the heat, remove the wok from the hob and let the dough cool for a minute.
While the dough cools. Lay out a large chopping board with baking paper and cut another piece of the same size. Lay the dough on the lined board and roll it lightly with your palms to a smooth dough. Then put on the extra baking paper and roll the dough with a rolling pin in the middle to a circular / oval shape about half a centimeter thick.
Then gently smooth the top paper and cut the Katli into squares or the traditional diamond shape. This is easier while it is still warm. Then allow the Katli to cool completely. Traditionally, edible silver foil is used to coat the surface of Katli. Instead, you can also melt and drizzle the white chocolate.
Finally, gently peel off the baking paper on which the katli sits when it is completely cool. This will stay fresh for up to a week in an airtight box.
Baked Namkeen – hearty biscuits (pronounced wet-spicy)
1 cup of plain flour
Half cup of whole wheat flour
Half teaspoon baking powder
Half TL Nigella seed
4.5 tablespoons ghee
1.5 teaspoons salt
Half cup of warm water
Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Put the flour and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Add the ghee, salt and nigella seeds and crumble the flour with them until you get what looks like breadcrumbs.
Now add warm water until you can roll a smooth dough that does not stick to the edges of the bowl. If you add too much water, just add a teaspoon or two more flour to the dough – that's no big deal.
Now roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to the thickness of one pound, as with the Katli recipe. Remove the paper and place the rolled out dough with the paper on a baking sheet.
Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough first into strips and then into either diamonds or rectangles. Now baked on one side for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and gently turn over and bake for another 15 minutes on the other side.
Allow to cool before storing and storing. Store in an airtight container and use within three to four days.
Nariyal Laddoos – coconut balls
400 g of tin condensed milk
1.25 cup medium sized, dried coconut
Half tsp powdered green cardamom
Put the condensed milk in a heavy bottom and bring it to medium heat. Stir for 10-15 minutes until the volume is halved. Do not worry too much if you see toffee pieces floating on the surface. Just keep stirring so it does not burn.
Next, stir through the cardamom and a cup of coconut. Mix well for another five minutes until it turns like a sticky dough around your spoon.
Allow it to cool slightly while dusting a plate with the remaining dried coconut. Roll a dollop of dough in your palms into a small ping-pong ball that dips everyone in the coconut until completely covered. Place on a plate to cool before inserting.
If you do not feel like preparing your own Diwali snacks, visit the Gupta Confectioners on Drummond Street, Euston NW1, or Pooja Sweets & Savouries, Tooting, SW17 for an impression of Diwali in India.
Mallika Basu is a London food author, cookbook author and chef personality. quickindiancooking.com, Follow her on Twitter @MallikaBasu_ and more recipes for the Evening Standard can be found here.