Diwali is India’s most important festival of the year — a festival of light – not just physical light, but spiritual light. Regardless of whether you’re Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, or Sikh, there is a story of the triumph of good over evil that you can share with your children. To celebrate Diwali, people will clean their homes and shop for kitchen utensils or gold on day one; decorate their homes with clay lamps and Rangoli patterns on day two; gather for feasts, fireworks, and festivities on day three; visit friends and relatives to kick off “the new year” on day four; and enjoy a lavish meal with siblings on day five.
When we think of Diwali from a culinary standpoint, two things come to mind – “snacks” and “sweets!” Naturally, both of these food genres go over well with kids, who seem to subsist solely off them for days at a time. Research shows involving kids in the kitchen makes them healthier eaters over a decade later. With a little bit of patience on your part, you gift your children with the tools they need for wellness. We hope you enjoy Indian home-cooking with your little ones and devouring these dishes as a family.
Besan ke Ladoo ke Cookies
From Surbhi Sahni, co-owner of Bittersweet, New York City
Ladoo is a round sweet that can be made of various ingredients. This recipe will take you less than an hour to make and uses common Indian recipe ingredients like chickpea flour and ghee, combined with sweet almond flour, sugar, and raisins, as well as savory cardamom seed and almonds. Some people say it’s the besan, or chickpea flour, that makes the tastier version. A Diwali Festival without ladoo would be incomplete.
Diwali Persimmon-Vanilla Cobbler
From NYC based Michelin-starred chef Vikkas Khanna’s cookbook “Indian Harvest”
“During Diwali, my maternal grandmother would always send a basket of fruits,” Chef Khanna recalls. The glossy persimmons showed through the colored paper. Cobbler is an easy dessert to make with limitless fruit combinations. This recipe combines “the tangy, sweet, delicate flavor of persimmons” with the “rich smooth vanilla.” The buttery crisp pastry makes this dish “a comforting end to a perfect meal,” he says. Child chefs helping out in the kitchen will especially enjoy the step where they blend the flour, sugar, baking powder, cornstarch, almonds, salt, and butter with their fingers to form coarse crumbs.
By Alice’s Pepperpot
Mithai can be more savory or more confectionery, depending on the recipe. “If there’s one thing that captures the Indian culinary psyche, it’s mithai,” says the UK Guardian. This version comes from a NYC recipe developer who grew up in Guayana, but remembers buying this tasty treat from a local street vendor and West Indian bakeries, where it was packaged alongside parsad, peera, goja, and gulgula for Diwali. Because it’s so easily made in large batches, mithai is popular at Hindu weddings, too. With a blend of anise seed, fresh grated ginger, cinnamon, and coconut, this treat will excite your child’s senses. The crunchy texture is kid-approved.
Warm Doda Barfi Treacle Tart
By Chef Manish Mehrotra at Indian Accent in Le Parker Meridien
Back home, this goodie tends to be popular only during Diwali. Here, it’s Indian Accent’s top-selling dessert with its grainy, fudgy texture. Though the addition of London-inspired tart isn’t exactly traditional, it’s “a stroke of genius,” says anyone who has tasted it. For the kids, there is plenty of stirring involved – with the cream and the eggs, not to mention the sponge crumbs. Reminiscent of pecan pie, it’s best served warm and topped with vanilla ice.
Chicken Korma with Almonds
By Madhur Jaffrey, recipe authority at Dawat on East 58th
“No recipe can ever compete with the love and care food is cooked with in an Indian home using recipes passed on for generations,” says Madhur Jaffrey, author of more than 30 cookbooks. While Diwali isn’t known for large entrees, we thought you’d probably want to feed the kids something more than dessert for dinner, so we included this chicken recipe packed with flavors of ginger, clove, bay, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, chili, tomato, and the sweet, curry-esque garam masala. Add a dash of cream and you’ve got an amazing dish for the whole family in less than one hour. If you’d like, you can serve it with Madhur’s Raisin Rice Pilaf or alongside Indian breads, vegetables, and chutneys.
Visit NY Metro Parents or The Indian Eagle for ideas on how to celebrate Diwali with your children in NYC, including dance performances, crafts, parades, and cooking demos. If your child is a master chef in the making, contact us to inquire about our “Kitchen Stars” cooking classes for ages 3-5 or 6-8.