Diwali is a festival of lights and a great time to get together with family and friends to share some great food.
It’s no surprise then that I love to cook, specially at this lovely time of Diwali. I like to keep the meals simple yet stunning, something worthy of a celebration but at the same time nothing that takes too much planning and organising to cook. My Diwali meals are usually things I can prep in advance so that I can spend as much time with my family and friends as everyone else.
Being a festival it is natural to have food that is shared with everyone so these meals are great as they sit in the middle of the table and everyone can help themselves.
The starters are ‘Spicy Herby Paneer Parcels’ that are crispy on the outside with a lovely spicy filling in the middle and a great herby finish. These can be made before your guests arrive and served warm or at room temperature with some chutney or even on its own.
The main is a family favourite ‘Vegetable Whole Spice Pulao’. Not only does it taste amazing it is a really simple recipe to make, something where the whole family can get involved and help with the chopping. Great served with some raita and chutney and even brilliant on its own.
The dessert is ‘Carrot And Pistachio Mini Cakes’. These are inspired by the carrot halwa, which is a great Indian dessert. The cake is baked in a big square tin and then sliced into beautiful mini squares, which is a great portion for serving at a large gathering. The spices and dates in the cake add a lovely flavour to this stunning dessert, with the cream cheese giving it a perfect finish.
Spicy and Herby Paneer parcels
For the filling
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric powder
200 gms paneer, grated
200 gms frozen peas
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the parcels
200 gms filo pastry
50 gms salted butter, melted
Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they start to sizzle add the onions, green chillies and cook for 4-5 minutes until they begin to colour.
Add all the spices, mix well and cook for a minute on low heat. Now add the paneer and peas, mix well, cover and cook for 6-7 minutes until the peas are soft. Then take off the cover and cook on high heat for 2 minutes until all the water has evaporated. Now add the lemon juice and leave it aside to cool.
Unroll the filo pastry and cut it into 4 equal squares. Cover them with a moist tea towel while you work with them.
Take a 12 hole cupcake tin and place one layer of the filo in all the holes. Brush it with butter and put another layer of filo on top, repeat till you have 3 layers of filo. Now put a spoonful of the paneer mix into the hole and then cover it with the layers of filo on top. Brush the tops with a little more butter.
Heat the oven to 190 C. Bake for 30 minutes until crispy and golden. Remove them from the tray and let them cool down slightly before serving.
Vegetable whole spice pulao
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
6 green cardamom
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
30 gms cashewnuts
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cm ginger, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 carrot, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
100 gms prozen peas
150 gms cauliflower, cut into small flortes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chilli powder
600gms or 4 cups cooked rice
20 gms fresh mint, finely chopped
20 gms fresh coriander, finely chopped
handful of fresh pomegranate seeds
Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Now add the onions and cashewnuts and cook for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. To this add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute.
To this add the tomatoes, carrot, pepper, peas, cauliflower and all the spices. Combine it all well, cover and cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked.
Now add the rice and the herbs and mix well. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and serve warm.
Carrot and pistachio cake
(makes 16 mini squares)
For the cake
150 gms dates, roughly chopped
100 ml water
200 gms unsalted softened butter
100 gms light muscavado sugar
200 gms carrots, grated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
200 gms self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs separated
50 gms pistachios, finely chopped
200 gms cream cheese
1 tbsp honey
handful of pistachios, thinly sliced
In a pan heat the water with the dates and cook on low heat for 4-5 mins. Leave it aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease and line an 8 inch square cake tin.
In a bowl whisk the butter and sugar until light and creamy. To this add the grated carrot and date mixture, cinnamon, cardamom and whisk it together. Now add the flour, baking powder and egg yolks and mix well.
In another bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Put this egg white mix into the cake mix with the pistachios and fold it all in. Pour the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until baked. Leave it aside to cool completely.
Once cooled down cut the cake into squares. In a bowl mix the cream cheese with the honey and spread it over the squares. Now sprinkle the pistachios and serve.