With Diwali only two weeks away I believe that the preparations have already started in many homes. After the usual cleaning, dusting and scrubbing, people invade shopping malls in search of new clothes, household items, gifts and other trinkets. While the most important event remains the lighting of lamps [and fireworks] to symbolize the victory of good over evil, we all tend to focus more on the sweeter side of the festival. The very mention of Diwali gets us thinking about the wide array Indian sweets that are painstakenly made at home and shared with family, neighbours and friends.
It starts with the family coming together to decide on the list of sweets to be prepared followed by the purchase of ingredients needed for their confection. This is usually done in supermarkets where the raw materials are prominently displayed as being ‘On Sale’ at their regular prices to the delight of customers. While men get busy shopping for sugar, ghee, flour, milk, besan, oil and sweet spices, the womenfolk actively engage in recipe sharing over the phone or by email. Some bring out their vintage collection of newspaper clippings while the more adventurous ones come up with creations of their own which do not always work out the way they had originally intended.
Even the simplest of sweets take time if dozens have to be prepared simultaneously by amateur hands. Many prefer to begin on the eve or few days before; the ones with more money and less time and/or skill will settle for store bought quality from Bombay Sweets, Anand Sweets, Ashoka Sweets, Milan Sweets, etc. In either case, the final choice will usually be from the following:
1. Besan/Boondi Laddoo – The universal sweet present at every joyous occasion, this delicious morsel is made out of droplets of deep fried chickpea flour. Make sure that you have enough helping hands to assist you in shaping these into golf sized balls
2. [Mauritian] Gulab Jamun – Shaped like a small sausage, it is [again] deep fried and dipped in sugar syrup. Can be stored for days but you may find yourself with empty containers mere hours after you carefully packed everything for distribution
3. Barfi – Comes in all shapes and flavours, some with exotic names, it is a milk-based delight prepared by different method. The best results are undeniably those made out of paneer/homemade cheese but it takes patience and skill to acheive the perfect texture
4. Khaja – Our Indian feuilleté, made by layering thin sheets of dough with oil-flour paste to give that distinctive flakiness
5. Nankhatai – A dainty vegeterian cookie that melts in the mouth due to the liberal amount of ghee that goes in its making
6. Tekwa- Also a nickname for someone on the heavy side, this soft pillow-like dessert is traditionally filled with ground split peas/dal, very much like a sweet version of our ‘staple’ food – the dal puri
7. [Mauritian] Rasgulla – Similar to the gulab jamun except that it is round and spongier in consistency. Tends to absorb a lot of syrup, diabetics nanis, beware!
8. Gato Coco – The simplest of all, the rustic gato coco is made by cooking a mixture of sugar and grated coconut to a thick sticky mass and leaving it to crystalise to room temperature. Some add powdered milk to give it a creamy texture.
9. Gato Zinzli – Deep fried dough balls coated with sesame seeds, probably stems from a fusion of indo-chinese cuisine
10. Gato Patate – Another sweet responsible for the admission of many diabetic patients post-diwali, this is a genuine ‘Made in Mauritius’ delicacy. Roughly described as a sweet potato dumpling stuffed with sweetened coconut, it remains the number 1 favorite in most households.
Buy them or make them yourself, Diwali sweets are but an excuse to share our joy with others. The Moricienneries team wishes all group members, page subscribers, contributors and well wishers a very happy Diwali and hopes that it brings luck, wealth and prosperity to everyone. And no matter how you choose to fill your box of sweets, do spare a thought for those who won’t be celebrating with us this year.