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.
Diwali and Navratri are perhaps the biggest festivals at my home. Diwali meant a lot of things – for my dad, it meant good luck with his business. For my mom it meant a lot of things, like a new start, with cleaning the house, throwing away junk from the house, metaphorically, as well as cleaning out the bad that may have occurred in the past year. Mom loved having guests over for Diwali, and serve them all her sweet and savory preparations, meticulously placed on a plate for each individual, and beautifully presented. She loved doing that – She loved having people over and serving them food made by her. That was her biggest joy and contentment, seeing people enjoy her food. For my brother and I as kids, it meant holidays from school lol. It meant we could lounge about and sleep in, and watch tv, and play and pretty much do nothing.
My favorite thing to do on Diwali day was make Rangoli. I would make these designs outside our home, with colored sand powder and once the design was done, we put diyas or little lamps around it, and it would look so pretty! I would participate in Rangoli competitions in school as well as college. I never won, but I always enjoyed participating. Another favorite part was we as children would get money from our elders, since this was also significant of the Hindu New Year, so that was very exciting for us :).
So mom would make a bunch of things – Gujarati snacks and sweets and I would help to make her all of the goodies. 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.
Ghughra were fun to make, and I have fond memories of helping mom make these every year. She had a special mold for the Ghughras. The filling is made of semolina, dried coconut, ghee, almonds, pistachios, cashew, raisins, cardamom, nutmeg, sugar, saffron, heavy cream. The filling is so flavor by itself and I could eat spoonfuls while it is hot! The dough is simply made with all purpose flour and ghee. You roll it out, place it in the mold, place a bit of the mixture into the dough and fold it. Then you pleat the ends to make a half moon. Once all of them are pleated, the hand pies are deep fried in vegetable oil. They stay for many days, and are so delicious to eat, along with masala chai! The pleating makes them look pretty too!
We will be celebrating Diwali on a small scale with our friends, and we will do a small prayer ritual with the 4 of us on Diwali day. I hope to make some special dishes for dinner, instead of our regular dinners. Diwali is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. I wish you all a beautiful start to your new year, and may this year be fruitful, wonderful and peaceful for each and every one of you.
Happy Diwali and a Prosperous New Year(Saal Mubarak) to all my readers and friends and family, from our family to yours!
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour (280 gms)
- 3 tbsp melted ghee
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup whole toasted almonds
- ¼ cup whole toasted cashews
- ¼ cup whole toasted pistachios
- ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 2/3 cup unsweetened dry coconut
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup semolina
- ¼ cup melted ghee
- 1 ½ tsp freshly ground cardamom powder
- 1 tsp grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp saffron strands
- 4-5 tbsp heavy cream
- ½ tsp salt
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Extra flour for dusting/rolling
- In a medium bowl, add the all-purpose flour, ghee, and ½ cup of the warm water. Bind the dough with your hands, if it is too dry, start adding 2 tbsp of water at a time, until the dough is NOT hard and NOT too soft. Massage it for 3-4 minutes until it is soft to the touch and smooth. Let it rest for half an hour.
- In the meanwhile make the filling. In a medium non-stick saucepan, on medium heat, add the ghee. Now add the semolina, and toast the semolina for 4-5 minutes until it is a light brown/golden brown in color. Add in the sugar and mix well. Add in the heavy cream and saffron strands, and mix it for a minute. Add in the remaining ingredients like raisins, coconut, ground nuts, cardamom, nutmeg, salt and mix it well for 2-3 minutes. Your mixture is ready to fill. Wait for 15 minutes to let it cool slightly.
- Divide the dough into about 20 equal pieces. Roll each one into a ball. Keep a little bowl with extra flour to dab each ball in, so that it does not stick while rolling each one. Using a rolling pin, and a wooden board to roll, dust a bit of flour on the board. Flatten each ball on the board, and start rolling it like you would with a pie dough. Roll it round till it is about 4.5 to 5 inches in diameter. Add about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into half of the round dough. Gently fold into half to match the edges and seal it with your fingers gently. Now pleat the hand pie, starting from the left end, and pleating it neatly with your finger and thumb, all across the entire hand pie, until you reach the right end.
- Keep each hand pie on a baking tray with parchment paper. Do the same for the remaining balls and mixture. With the remaining dough, you can make about 5-7 more balls. You will have some mixture left in the end.
- Keep a large bowl with a paper bowl on the side. In a 4 Quart Pan, on medium to high heat, add in vegetable oil. Let it get hot. The process will take about 7 minutes. To test, add in a bit of dough and see if it rises up quickly. If it does, then you know your oil is ready to fry. Slowly fry each hand pie, about 20 seconds on each side, till it puffs up and is golden brown in color. Fry the remaining hand pies. Let it cool. They are ready to eat! They are best eaten within a week. Store in an air tight container.
- For the remaining mixture, you can add it to puff pastry, and bake them off to make small hand pies. Glaze them with a cardamom or a rosewater glaze, and they will taste wonderful!