October is the month in which families across the world will celebrate Diwali. Known to many as the ‘Festival of Light’, we look into what makes this festival so special to many religions. With the help of Romy Gill MBE, she shares her passion for Diwali from discussing what food is eaten during the festival to delving into her own special recipes she would make. From delicious savoury & vegetarian plates to sweet, decadent delights, Romy showcases these treats within her recipe series that we discuss further within this article. You can also head over to our Recipes, Tips and Blog Page to gain access to the full recipes for these dishes…you wouldn’t want to read these on an empty stomach!
Don’t forget to also check out our Q&A with Romy Gill as we go into greater detail about all things Diwali and her own take on the festival. She even shares her experience in being the first ever female Indian chef and Restaurant owner in the UK and giving advice for people wanting to learn how to cook – it’s certainly one that you wouldn’t want to miss.
What is Diwali, Festival of Light?
Did you know Diwali is one the biggest holidays celebrated in India? Eminently loved by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. Diwali is commonly known as the ‘festival of lights’ from the use of lighting oil lamps and decorative lights amongst homes and cities. The reason for this is to symbolise victory of goodness and light and triumph over the evil and darkness.
The celebrations span across 5 days, this year beginning from Monday 24th October. However, the dates change depending on the Hindu lunar calendar, so next year Diwali will take place Sunday 12th November. Each day has a specific celebration to it, with the days always involving an element of sweet treats, extravagant dinners and gifting with family and friends.
What Food is Eaten During Diwali?
Now you’re probably thinking what food is usually eaten during this festival – I pre-warn you now, some of these treats will make you very hungry!
Diwali is a time full of feasting and enjoying a bundle of sweet treats with family and friends. The most popular of foods consumed over the festival is ‘Mithai’, a very traditional Indian sweet. Why mostly sweets you might ask? It is known that sweets are considered to be of purity and a blessed offering to the gods. These treats are usually fried, using sugar, chickpea and condensed milk.
Although sweets are the more popular choice during the festival period, what about the more savoury based dishes? Aloo Tikki’s (fried potato patties) and Samosas are some of the more popular choices for people. These are jam packed with stuffings of either mincemeat, or lentils/roasted vegetables, holding irresistible flavours of Indian spices and crispy textures.
As you can see, there are a bountiful of foods to choose from during Diwali, but what we really want to know is…can you make any of them? A chef who is certainly no stranger to cooking decadent foods during Diwali is the glorious Romy Gill MBE.
Who is Romy Gill?
Romy Gill is the UK’s first British/Indian chef to become a restaurant owner in Gloucestershire, 2013, ironically named ‘Romy’s Kitchen’. Although since closing, Chef Romy continues to be renowned for being a remarkable cook, food writer and broadcaster in the South-west England. Featured in shows such as BBC One’s Ready, Steady Cook and Sunday Brunch, Romy infuses her West Bengal heritage and British Lifestyle in her cookery, showcasing the decadent flavours of traditional Indian cuisine in her dishes. Her outstanding cooking and services in the hospitality industry even took her to being appointed an MBE in 2016 during the late Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday Honour List.
Being absolutely delighted to team up with Romy ahead of the Diwali celebrations, we were eager to know what should we dish up during Diwali.
Romy’s Recipes for Diwali?
Romy emphasise that in India you do not eat meat every day, with herself mostly consuming plant-based foods as a child. Through her heritage, she wanted to showcase the variety of dishes you can serve up during Diwali, whether that being a focus on meat or a more vegetal based dish.
Within the next section we will look through a few main recipes Romy has shared with us that would make great dishes to serve during the Festival of Lights. This will include a delicious starter of Roasted Stem Broccoli, served on Creamy Feta, the infamous Moong Bean Dal as a main, and to finish up with dessert, the decadent Orange and Cocoa Cake…delicious! All 3 of these recipes are listed in full detail on our Recipes, Tips and Blog Page, as well as other delicious ideas for Diwali food, including the magnificent Hot and Spicy Whole Roasted Chicken served with a bundle of spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes.
A kick- ‘Starter’ to Diwali – Roasted Stem Broccoli, Served on Creamy Feta
Talk about flavour! This starter of stem broccoli, roasted with zaatar, chilli flakes and Maldon Salt rests on a bed of a rich, creamy feta. Funnily enough, broccoli is actually one of the few vegetables used in Indian cuisine! However, this is what Romy is so well known for, through merging her own West Bengal heritage with British influence to create these delicious dishes. To pair with this, Romy lays the broccoli on a bed of creamy feta, to provide a rich, tangy burst of flavour whilst you tuck into this dish.
The ‘Main’ Event – Moong Bean Dal
What could be more traditional that Romy’s Moong Bean Dal for Diwali? If you are not entirely sure what ‘Moong Beans’ are, they are whole lentils (with skins on) that are widely used in Asian cooking. Romy notes it’s a good idea to soak them overnight to reduce the cooking time and make the texture more pleasurable to the final dish, whilst also giving a mild bean, nutty taste. Within this recipe she also shows you had to make tadka. This is a heat-based technique used to infuse an abundance of spices, herbs and dash of ghee (oil) to add a burst of flavour to the dish. Best to serve with this dish, Romy notes either pairing flatbreads or rice would go well. Romy’s Lemon Rice, sprinkled with roasted peanuts is a particularly delicious pairing!
No ’Desserting’ this dish! – Orange and Cocoa Cake
The finale to a Diwali feast fit for a king…the decadent orange and cocoa cake. The appetite for cocoa is on the rise for India, with many replacing mithai (rich, creamy sweet treats) with cocoa for a much more ‘healthier’ alternative. Romy delves into showcasing an iconic flavour pairing of orange and chocolate, where the rich, intense flavour is balance by the fresh, zesty tones of the orange. Both of these flavours have such warming qualities to them and makes a great showstopper to end a feast of delights for this years’ Diwali.
Food for Thought…
To summarise, this article enlightened us on the significance of Diwali for many around the world. Focusing on the food element of the festival and why treats are most commonly enjoyed, it is clear to see a huge variety of recipes you can try making yourself during the celebration. As mentioned above, feel free to browse through Romy’s recipes she’s worked on with us here at Maldon Salt, including delicious showstoppers such as the Stuffed Courgettes with Lamb Mince.
Please share your creations through #maldonsalt on Instagram, we love seeing the creativity and fun you have when following them. If you are interested in wanting to learn how to cook more recipes with us, head over to our YouTube Channel to become inspired by an abundance culinary creations.
Psstt… don’t forget to read through our Q&A with Romy as well… it makes an excellent read when you have a cup of tea and a slice of cake by your side!