Diwali , the “festival of lights” is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated every autumn in India and Nepal. It celebrates the story of the homecoming of the god Ram after 7 years of exile, and spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.
The festival typically extends over a five-day period, but the main night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu month of Kartika, which typically falls between mid-October and mid-November. It features countless oil lamps, candles or lights shining in homes, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings — much like Christmas decorations here.
On Diwali night, many Hindus dress up in their best outfits, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers), typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja there are sometimes fireworks, then the highlight: a big family feast featuring mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends.
Tonight chef, caterer and culinary historian Abeda Oturkar will share a lavish Diwali meal featuring holiday specialities from all over India. The menu features lots of small bites and sweets to tempt you to “mooh mitha kijeya”, literally meaning sweeten your mouth, until you sit down for the main feast. Come and join us in the spirit of Diwali at The Dep: mingling and laughing with family and friends, all around lots of delicious food.
A speciality of Lucknow, these vegetarian ‘kebabs’ are called galouti or galawat to describe their “melt-in-the-mouth” tenderness; these patties of rajma (red kidney beans) and shakar kandh (sweet potato) are delicately pan fried, and served with a classic mint chutney
Crispy fried fritters in a chickpea-flour batter are known as bhaji or pakora depending on the state, but are deliciously addictive everywhere you go, especially when dipped into tangy tamarind chutney
A must-have in the list of many traditional treats made for Diwali, every region has a name for it (e.g. karanji or purukiya). A fried half-moon pastry filled with nuts, coconut and raisins, it’s a kind of sweet samosa akin to the English tradition of having mince pies at Christmas
One of Abeda’s signature dishes, this features tender chicken in a rich white cashew and cream sauce infused with aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, clove and black pepper.
Achaari Aloo Gobi
Achaar means “pickle”, and this tangy cauliflower and potatoes dish uses many of the distinctive spices used in Indian pickles, like fenugreek, mustard, cumin, fennel and nigella seeds.
Cool and refreshing side of spinach in cumin-scented yogurt
Served with homemade paratha flatbread, and bagara rice; tender basmati lightly fried with cumin seeds.
One of the best known Indian mithai (sweets), this is another classic Diwali treat. Fresh milk is slowly cooked until almost all the water has evaporated, leaving protein-rich solids known as khoya from which a variety of sweets are made. For gulab jamun, it is shaped into balls and deep fried to a golden colour before being soaked in a green cardamom and rose water-infused sugar syrup. They are then often garnished with nuts, or flecks of pure silver or gold leaf.
The meal finishes with a traditional mouth freshener and digestive, paan, of which there are countless variations. Most traditionally include a stimulant combination of areca nut and betel leaf activated by mineral lime paste, which is considered to have many health benefits in Ayurvedic medicine. Some paan are even rumoured to contain more illicit ingredients such as hashish or opium — but ours will be a strictly culinary version with heady rose and anise flavours.
Abeda Bihari Oturkar is a veteran food entrepreneur who is equally passionate about preparing delectable recipes and providing foods that improve well-being. Over more than 11 years her Dubai-based food business, Spice & Aroma Alimentary Food, grew to encompass a successful restaurant, catering business, cooking classes, consulting and culinary tours. All of Abeda’s endeavours are informed by a lifelong study of food, culinary history, spices and nutrition. She’s now looking to bring this culinary adventure to Ontario.
Every weekend The Depanneur invites a guest chef to host a fun, informal dinner party.