Cooking Thinking

How We Celebrate: Diwali, the Festival of Light

18th October 2021

Welcome to our new series, How We Celebrate. There are so many incredible days of celebration throughout the calendar year, and nearly all of them involve… food! We hope this series inspires you to learn about different cultures and try new cuisines. First up, Diwali. We spoke to Bini of Bini’s Fine Foods, and Varsha Patel of Swaadish to find out how they celebrate. And what they’ll be eating too! 

What is Diwali?

Diwali is a colourful, vibrant festival celebrated every year by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs around the world. It’s a celebration of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil.

The date differs every year, according to the lunar calendar, but this year Diwali, which means “rows of lighted lamps”, lands on 24 to 28 October. The third day is the main celebration.

How do people celebrate Diwali?

Aside from the amazing fireworks, the five-day festival centres around food, with different meals cooked on different days of the festival. Dishes can differ from region to region, but everything is usually vegetarian or pescatarian, and preparation can take weeks. Some snacks are often made a month or so in advance.

Bini Ludlow, owner of Farmdrop supplier Bini Fine Foods, loves celebrating Diwali every year.

“My routine is to visit my parents’ homes, and we would sit and enjoy a meal, which my mum and I would cook together,” she says.

“The menu would be pescatarian and we would create a feast. It’s all about texture, colour, flavours and creating memories.

I’d get dressed up and wear some lovely Indian clothing, it’s got to be bright and colourful. I would then bow down to my parents for respect and we would hug and wish each other a healthy and prosperous new year.

“As a family, we then visit the temple on new year’s day and pray and meet and greet our friends and family. It’s also a time to visit each other’s homes and have a tipple and eat delicious food. We have to eat at every home we visit. It’s a great feeling.”

What’s on the Diwali menu?

Meals can include the deep-fried puri, which is a delicious soft bread, with a dal curry, snacks, such as “chivda”, which is similar to a Bombay mix, as well as samosas, bhajis and aloo tikki, finished with sweet treats known as mithai.

Staple ingredients for Diwali feasts include chickpea and rice flours, semolina, legumes, grains, squashes, carrots, condensed milk and yoghurt. Go-to spices include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and saffron.

For Varsha Patel, one of the founders of Farmdrop supplier Swaadish, the celebration very much centres around food.

“There is an annual family party for Diwali where typically there would be farsan (samosa-type fried goodness) then sweets dishes called barfi, laddu, halwa and shrikand, then vegetarian Gujarati curry with puris, rice and dhaal.”

Bini’s menu includes mixed vegetable bhajya, which are deep-fried fritters.

“These are the tastiest morsels ever. Beautifully spiced and perfect as an accompaniment to a meal or pre-drinks,” she says.

And then there’s shrikand – soft hung curd cheese mixed with saffron, sugar and cardamon, then topped with toasted almonds and pistachios.

There’s also puri, masala fish that’s pan fried and served hot, potato and aubergine curry with peas and topped with fresh coriander, black chick pea curry, Gujarati dal, and buttery steamed rice and raitu, which is a traditional Gujarati side dish made with cucumber, curd, green chilies and coriander.

Shop from Bini and Varsha’s brands: 


Gujarati Toor Dal

Bini Fine Foods

Gujarati Vegetable Rice

Bini Fine Foods

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