Diwali is a Hindu festival and is called the Festival of Lights and is the biggest festival of the year. Diwali is celebrated for very many reasons, and it signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. The celebration holds different meanings in different parts of India. The festival lasts for 5 days and all over India, there are joyous celebrations, lights lit everywhere, people buying new household items, or making big investments or purchases during this auspicious time.
At my home, my mom would start cleaning the whole home like a couple of weeks in advance, make us clean our cupboards too, and remove any and all junk, to indicate a clean slate/start. We would buy new clothes to wear during the festivities. Mom would start again about 10 days in advance, making her famous shortbread buttery biscuits, and other sweet and savory snacks by the tubfuls. We would have guests over, and she would serve a bit of all the snacks she made for each guest. I would help her make all the sweet and savory snacks, and it was a lot of fun in the kitchen during those days. We had holidays from school, so I could watch her whirling away in the kitchen, and help her wherever I could. It was just a lot of fun!
She would make chaklis, chorafadi, mathia, chevdo, laddu, her famous biscuits and ghugharas. These were the items that would last long and could be stored in air tight containers for a longer duration. Other items like Shrikhand and gajjar no halwo which are perishable items, were made too, but they would be consumed within a couple of days of making. She loved to socialize, and have friends and family and guests over and serve them. That was her biggest joy and contentment, to see people eating her food and loving it. We as a family would burst crackers too with our friends, although I do not like it anymore since it is such a health hazard and environmentally harmful as well with all the pollution and noise that it causes too.
If you want to read more as to why Diwali is celebrated, you can get information from Wikipedia, which explains it really well, of its significance and celebration in different parts of the country. I miss celebrating diwali here in the United States. Although we do celebrate it with friends, it is not on a big scale, and as festive as it is back home. I do a small celebration in my own way, by doing a small pooja(ritual to pray to gods), making mithai(indian dessert) and a savory snack as well. I make a nice meal of chole, puris, raita and salad, and they devour it. The puris are a rare occurence in my home since they are fried, but oh so good!
I am sharing 2 recipes, that my mom made : roasted chevdo(savory rice crunchies), and gajjar no halwo(carrot halwa) which are popular in my home. I hope you enjoy the recipes. The halwa is seriously the best and I am not kidding you. It is sooo much better than what you get at a restaurant. The method is a bit tedious but oh so worth it! My son loves it and asks me to make it often but because it takes a while, I make it once a year! 🙂
Happy Diwali and a Prosperous New Year(Saal Mubarak) to all my readers and friends and family, from our family to yours!
- Poha Chevdo:
- 4 cups thin poha(flattened rice)
- 1/2 cup broken cashewnuts
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 1/2 cup white raisins
- 1/2 cup dahlia(yellow gram daal)
- 6-7 kadi patta
- About 1/3 cup vegetable oil for frying
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 green chillies coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon chilli powder
- salt to taste
- pinch of rock salt to taste
- Gajjar no Halwo:
- 1 pound of carrots, washed, peeled
- 4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup brown sugar or white sugar
- 1/2 cup of ghee
- 1 1/2 tbsp of freshly ground cardamom powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg powder
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced almonds and pistachios
- Pinch of saffron strands
- Poha Chevdo:
- First in a huge saucepan, roast the poha one cup at a time, till it is crisp for about 2-3 minutes/cup of poha. This is on medium heat. Put this into a large bowl.
- Next, in the same saucepan, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil at medium heat, and then add the kadi patta and green chillies and fry them for a minute. Remove them into a second large bowl. Next, fry the peanuts for 4 minutes, remove them into the same large bowl. Next, fry the cashewnuts for 2 minutes, remove them into the same large bowl. Next, fry the dahlia for 2 minutes, remove them into the same large bowl. Add the raisins to this same bowl.
- Now, add the roasted poha to this bowl with all the fried mixture and add the chilli powder, turmeric, salt and sugar, and mix until well blended!
- In the same saucepan, remove the dirty oil and add fresh 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and on medium heat, add the entire mixture into this saucepan and mix it well for about 3-4 minutes. Now wait for it to cool down completely and store in an air tight container.
- Gajjar no Halwo:
- Grate the carrots by hand, with a fine grater. Do not use a food processor or use the thick side of a grater. This is the secret to making velvetty, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth halwo!
- In a large pot, on medium heat, add in the ghee. Add in the grated carrots and saute for 10 minutes. The water from the carrots will start to reduce. Now add in the milk and sugar, and stir gently for 15 minutes. The milk should finally evaporate and reduce, and the color of the halwo will be a dark orange. Add in the cardamom powder, nutmeg powder, pinch of saffron and mix. The mixture will reduce a lot to less than half from the original amount of carrots. Saute for another 10 minutes. Add in the raisins and half of the sliced almonds/pistachios and mix gently. When all the water/milk has evaporated and the halwo looks like a mushy clump, it is done.
- Remove it onto a serving platter and garnish with the remaining pistachios and almonds. You can sprinkle additional cardamom powder if you like to.