Diwali, the five day Festival of Lights, begins today.
Celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, as well as some Buddhists — albeit, all for slightly differing reasons — the festival is largely marked by a sense of joy.
For Hindus, Diwali celebrates King Rama’s return from exile and the symbolic victory of good over evil, with another key figure the Goddess Lakshmi, associated with wealth and prosperity.
Sikhs, meanwhile, mark the release of the sixth guru Hargobind Singh from in 1619; Jains are celebrating the moment Lord Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankaras, achieved Nirvana.
While savoury and sweet snacks tend to feature prominently over the five days, and vegetarian food often is chosen over meat, for many it is simply a period of eating well; it is a period of happiness and gratitude. In that spirit, four of our favourite restaurants have shared their favourite recipes to tuck into over Diwali.
Pali Hill’s saag paneer with cima di rapa and spinach
“Paneer, or cottage cheese, is made with either cow’s milk or buffalo’s milk by bringing it up to a boil and curdling it by adding some lemon juice or vinegar. It is then hung in a muslin and pressed to get rid of all the water. Once you’ve done this, it can be shaped into blocks or crumbled and added to dishes. You can make this at home, but it’s also easy to find in most British supermarkets.
“‘Saag’ means greens in Hindi and a variety of greens can be used to make this dish. I like to use nettles in the spring and cima in the winter. Cima or turnip tops are rich in nutrients and have a delicious, bittersweet flavour. The addition of creamy, bouncy paneer makes it especially delicious.
“The food cooked for Diwali is usually a combination of vegetarian dishes and sweets. Here in the UK, as the weather gets cold over Diwali, it’s nice to have something nourishing, comforting yet festive.”
1kg cima di rapa
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 green chillies
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp of toasted ground coriander seeds
2 tbsp of sunflower oil
250g paneer, cut into one-inch cubes
Pick and cook the cima and spinach in boiling salted water until they are soft. Make sure you don’t overcook them, or refresh them in cold water, or they will lose all their nutrients and flavour.
Allow it to cool down, gently squeeze out the excess water and transfer to a food processor along with the green chillies. Grind to a coarse paste and set aside.
Heat oil in a pot and crackle the cumin seeds before adding the garlic. Sauté until golden brown and add the cima and spinach and bring it up to a boil. Adjust the seasoning.
Sprinkle the coriander seeds and the paneer and cook for a further two to three minutes. Serve with flatbread or rice.
Avinash Shashidhara, Pali Hill, palihill.co.uk
Jamavar’s shahi mutter paneer
“Whenever we host festive occasions at home, there is one recipe that comes to mind and that is shahi mutter paneer. A dish of varied rich flavours, colours, lusciousness and texture; it’s a must in festive times.”
400g green peas
300g chopped onions
350g chopped tomatoes
80g ginger garlic paste
Chopped fenugreek leaves, for garnish
185ml refined oil
3 cinnamon sticks, each one-inch long
8-10 cardamom pieces
4 bay leaves
8g red chili powder
5g yellow chili powder
5g turmeric powder
12g coriander powder
12g cumin powder
Salt to taste
1.5g cardamom powder
1.5g mace powder
7g garam masala
Cover the almonds in water and leave to soak for four to five hours, so the skin peels off easily and they are soft.
Place the almonds in a food processor, with half of the soaking water, and then blend to a paste adding more water if needed.
Cut the paneer into two-inch by ¼-inch strips. Fill a deep frying pan with enough oil to submerge the paneer and place on a high heat.
Fry in the hot oil until golden brown, around 5 minutes, and then soak in water. Keep to one side.
Add half the chopped onion and chopped tomato to a pan and cook on a medium-high heat until the onions are golden brown.
Blend the cooked onions and tomatoes in a food processor and set aside.
In a pan, heat oil. Add the cinnamon, half the cardamon, cloves, bay leaf and cumin. Once the spices are sizzling, add the remaining chopped onion and cook until it turns brown.
Add the ginger, garlic paste and cook for two to three minutes, to remove the raw flavou, then add the remaining chopped tomato and simmer for five minute. Next, add the onion and tomato paste and simmer for a further five minutes.
Add the yoghurt and cook for two to three minutes, then add the almond paste and cook for a further two to three minutes.
Then add the yellow chilli powder, red chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin and ground turmeric and cook until the oil rises to the surface.
Strain the sauce and, in a separate pan, bring it to the boil.
Add the cream and butter and simmer for 10 minutes, then season with salt.
Add the paneer and green peas, cooking for a further two minutes, and finish with the remaining cardamom and mace powder.
Garnish with fried fenugreek leaves.
Surender Mohan, Jamavar, jamavarrestaurants.com
Gymkhana’s tandoori lamb chops
“A Gymkhana classic. Hampshire-bred lamb chops are marinated with yoghurt, red chilli, garam masala and kasoori methi, then cooked in the tandoor.
“The history of this dish can be traced to the Mughal era — lamb being the most popular meat with the royals — where they combined the cooking techniques of the tandoor to create tandoori lamb chops. The distinctive, robust taste is attributed to the simplicity of the ingredients and the quality of the meat.”
2 racks of lamb (8 bone)
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp red chili powder
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp kasoori methi
1 Indian onion, crushed with a mallet
1-inch piece of ginger, crushed
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp red chilli powder
7 tbsp hung yoghurt (drained Greek yoghurt)
2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp garam masala
2 tbsp mustard oil
Clean and trim the lamb chops and cut them after every three bones, only keeping the middle bone on each piece and removing the other two bones.
With a mallet, beat and flatten the meat to about three inches broad.
For the first marinade, mix ginger garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, kasoori methi and lemon juice, add the prepared lamb chops and the crushed ginger and onion. Marinate overnight.
For the second marinade, whisk together hung yoghurt, garam masala, mustard oil, salt, and red chilli powder. Add the earlier marinated lamb chops and marinate for six hours.
Skewer the lamb chops and cook in the tandoor, occasionally basting with melted butter until the meat is well charred and cooked medium-well. Remove and serve hot with mint chutney.
Siddharth Ahuja, Gymkhana, gymkhanalondon.com
JKS Restaurants also offer at-home kits, ambassadorgeneralstore.com
Chourangi’s tiger prawn cutlets
“Chourangi is the brainchild of myself and my close friend, Aditya Ghosh, a celebrated airline and tech entrepreneur from India. The aim is to put the world-class yet unexplored flavours of Calcutta on London’s food scene. Chourangi features authentic dishes, deeply inspired, selected and developed by my personal culinary experiences of my mother’s cooking and my childhood in the city.
“Prawn cutlets are a delicacy in India, especially for people in Calcutta during festive seasons. To celebrate Diwali, I would like to share my way of re-creating a delicious pair of prawn cutlets at home.”
500g prawns without shell (10 pieces, each weighing 50g)
2 tsp lemon juice
25g fresh coriander
20g green chillies
2g cinnamon powder
2g cumin powder
2g coriander powder
200g bread crumbs
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
Devein and clean the prawns thoroughly.
Mince the prawns to a coarse texture.
Cover the prawns in aluminium foil and flatten them before marinating with a meat pounder or flat ladle.
Add onion, ginger, green chilli, coriander, salt and lemon juice and keep the same for an hour.
Add the spice mix of coriander, cumin and cinnamon.
Make small dumplings of the prawn mixture (50gms each)
Make the egg batter for coating the prawn dumplings.
Spread the breadcrumbs on a tray.
Crumb the prawn dumplings one by one using the batter and breadcrumbs.
Shape the prawns in the form of a cutlet.
Assemble them in a flat tray, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour for it to set.
Heat oil in a pan and gently place the prawn cutlets one at a time.
Fry the prawn cutlets for 10 minutes until they turn golden brown.
Drain the excess oil from the cutlets on a paper towel.
Serve the prawn cutlets along with kasundi mayo.
Anjan Chatterjee, Chourangi, chourangi.co.uk