Prepare for Diwali, the Festival of Lights (4 November this year), with Mira Manek’s celebratory recipes – all of which are great for sharing with loved ones over the festive period.

Around the kitchen table has always been where my family come together. Growing up, my grandmother and mother taught me how to cook classic Gujarati dishes using traditional flavours and techniques. My style of cooking now is adapting the recipes I’ve grown up eating into my own takes. I try and focus on healthier versions of classic Gujarati food — fewer fried snacks and more freshness.

When we get together as a family, sometimes I cook, but it’s more likely to be my grandmother, mother or aunts who make the traditional dishes. For a celebration, we would probably have a thali, which is a combination of different curries, with a dahl, salad and roti.

Traditionally for Diwali, we go all-out and start cooking the week before. On the day, we dress up and spend the morning visiting elders. Then, from 3pm we’ll have friends and family popping into our house for food – 100 to 200 people usually! I love it. It’s a real celebration of culture, tradition, food and family.

This will be the first year without my grandfather, who passed away at the age of 95. He taught us the significance of Diwali and brought us all together. He was always in charge of creating the Rangoli – the elaborate patterns that are traditionally made on the floor at the entrance to the house. They’re drawn on a board and filled with soft powdered colours, or sometimes coloured rice grains.

Diwali food

Diwali food is all about sharing and gifting sweets, and indulgent snacks. Visitors come for mithai, which are sweet treats. They can be all different things – from chocolates to soft, sugary dumplings flavoured with cardamom, pistachio or saffron. We make some, but we also buy them in as they’re very elaborate.

We also serve bhel, which is a medley of different flavours and textures – potato, chick peas, pomegranate, chutneys… And there are lots of fried treats and samosas. We don’t drink alcohol, but we’ll have chai instead (see my recipe for badaam doodh below).

Badaam doodh (masala almond milk)

This is the ultimate welcome or festive drink, usually served if celebrating an engagement or at Diwali. Traditionally, it is made with cow’s milk, but it works just as well with almond milk, or your preferred type of milk. The thin slices of almonds and pistachios add a lovely crunch, and the sweetness of the honey brings out the flavours of the masalas. While I’ve made it chilled here, it also works really well hot, and is especially comforting in winter.

Mira Manek

Author of Saffron Soul (Jacqui Small LLP)


For more recipes to enjoy this Diwali, check out the links below.

Beetroot pitta stuffed with cauliflower bhajis

Pack these easy cauliflower bhajis into vibrant beetroot pittas with salad and pickled carrot for a tasty vegan lunch.

Lentil dahl with naan bread

Bring together your store cupboard spices for this warming spiced Indian dish. Serve this delicious dahl with yogurt and naan bread.

Sweet potato biryani

For something quick and simple to prepare, this sweet potato and cashew nut biryani can be ready in 15 minutes. It’s low in saturated fat and packed with flavour.

Indian style pancakes with masala veggies

Load up these turmeric dosa pancakes with masala veggies to make this vegan dish count as 2 of your 5 a day.

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