The weather is dry and bright. The people are gathering their diyas, cooking like crazy, and preparing for the influx thousands of tourists and the homecoming of far-flung loved ones. All of Mumbai, indeed all of India, is full to bursting with anticipation. This can only mean one thing: Diwali is upon us!
Often known (and literally translated) as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is one of the most sacred and beloved events in the Hindu calendar. Though it’s officially a holiday in 11 other countries (and one province in Pakistan), Diwali is most lavishly celebrated in India and Mumbai, its largest city. While the scripture behind Diwali varies between Hindu traditions, all celebrate a common theme: the power of humankind, guided by the light of self-control, furthered knowledge and compassion for others, to triumph over darkness and evil. In many traditions, Diwali marks the veneration of Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and Dhanvantari, God of Hope and Healing.
With such a meaning, you’d expect bursts of color and light as far as the eye can see, and Diwali doesn’t disappoint! The whole of India hangs diyas, or colored lights, outside windows and doorways; they burn throughout the festival nights. Colorful floor decorations called rangoli dot the floors of homes and businesses. The streets are ablaze with lights, fireworks, and colored powder and abuzz with shopping and celebration akin to the West’s Christmas observance.
Whether you’re a homesick Indian or just can’t swing a ticket to experience Diwali in India, there is one way to get a taste of India’s most festive time: the sweets of Diwali.
Diwali Food/Food Philosophy Overview
Like most cultural celebrations, food forms a major part of the Diwali experience. Carts sell sweet and spicy food on nearly every street throughout the festival, and families and friends watch the festivities or relax afterward over sweets.
Food is also a major part of the Indian identity. Children grow up at their mothers’ apron strings, watching as families come together to cook and chat. As adults, they return to bring the family recipes to life and catch up on everything that’s happened between visits. To cook Indian food is a window into what it is to be Indian, and I intend to give each of my readers that authentic experience.
And I mean authentic. Both the cultural roots of my recipes and modern health consciousness inform my food philosophies. Traditional Indian cuisine evolved over centuries before ingredients were invented in a lab or waterlogged inside a can; if it doesn’t use real India-native ingredients, it’s just not real Indian food. And while I won’t bore you with pages after page of studies, the human body was never intended to use fuel pumped up with artificial ingredients and stretched over months by chemical preservatives. These recipes were a gift from my ancestors, using the ingredients they had available to craft delicious, time-tested recipes, and I intend to honor that gift.
As you might imagine with such a joyous holiday, Diwali food is heavily represented by sweets. This post will focus on creating natural, traditional Indian sweets to brighten up even the most colorful Diwali celebration. Don’t worry; all of these authentic Indian recipes are low-sugar and low-carb, so you won’t have to break your diet to get the best of your Diwali!
One of the holiest days in Hinduism, Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil and is cause for the biggest celebration in Indian culture. As the Sanskrit word Diwali literally translates to “festival of light”, celebrations across India (and, increasingly, the world) feature candlelight processions, fireworks, gatherings, and food.
Of course, no celebration in any culture would be complete without food, and that’s where I come in. As Indian culture spreads abroad, more and more people (like you, for instance) are looking for healthy Indian recipes to make from fresh, never-frozen, never-canned ingredients. As a native South Indian, I grew up on truly authentic Indian food and continue to cook it for my family and friends. Just as I use only the freshest ingredients, I want to pass that on to the world; you’ll never have to open a package to cook any of my recipes. I am committed to using whole grains and natural ingredients in my recipes, and those looking for low-carb and low-sugar Indian food without sacrificing genuine Indian recipes will find a haven here.
Rava laddu is south India’s go-to sweet, a staple at festivals, weddings, gatherings, pujas, and wherever people congregate. Comparable to “bliss ball” truffles in the West, rava laddu is a no-bake treat that’ll save you time without a compromise on flavor. Rava (or semolina and coconut) laddu is an all-natural, high-quality, and seriously tasty dessert you can make and have any time.
In addition to its easy recipe and great taste, rava laddu will wow you with its long shelf life. Rava laddu will stay fresh for three to four weeks, which can be extended by refrigerating and avoiding milk in the recipe.
Raw Papaya Halwa
Traditional halva was flour based, soft and gelatinous, but evolved into a wide array of semolina, vegetable, fruit and nut variations. Fruit-based halvas have become one of India’s favorite festival and special occasion desserts. My favorite involves papaya, a great-tasting fruit that’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory and digestive aid. In addition to its great taste and health benefits, my authentic halwa recipe is also a no-bake treat you can whip together in 30 minutes or less.
Authentic Indian halwa is a great option for those looking for low-carb, healthy desserts. You won’t find a single grain of chemically filled white sugar or even a teaspoon of flour, great for those on a low-sugar diet or anyone looking to tamp down the calorie count while satisfying their sweet tooth.
Flax, Poppy Seed, and Coconut Laddu
I am a huge fan of traditional boondi laddus, but not so keen on trying to enjoy them while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Anything deep-fried and then dipped in white sugar syrup is obviously going to be high in calories, none of them doing a whole lot for you. I knew there was a better way, so I started making laddus with healthier ingredients that don’t compromise on taste. My all-natural, diet-friendly laddus are made with flax and poppy seed, two ingredients jam-packed with minerals (magnesium, potassium, iron), omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. Flax seeds, in particular, are known to reduce hypertension and improve eye, kidney, skin, hair and nail health.
In addition to its health qualities, my laddus hold up surprisingly well over time. Laddu can easily last three to four weeks, even longer with refrigeration.
Dalia, Poppy Seed, and Coconut Laddu
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, each of my laddus contains a different super-ingredient, and this one is dalia’s time to shine. Dalia, a “broken wheat” made from roasting seasoned wheat in ghee, has a plethora of health benefits, from digestive health to lower blood sugar. It even has a heightened magnesium and protein content to keep you strong physically and mentally.
For observant Hindus, this recipe is fully compatible with your Navaratri fast, as it contains no rice, wheat or chickpea flour.
Till and Almond Laddu
Known in the West as sesame, till includes an incredible amount of nutrients, including (but not limited to) calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, protein, and tryptophan. Till is a do-it-all ingredient for every health-conscious eater, helping with blood pressure, blood sugar, digestion, inflammation and metabolic function, as well as healthy skin, nails, hair, and even cancer and radiation protection.
My till laddu offers a satisfying crunch of almond on top, adding a satisfying dose of healthy fat, protein, and fiber along with it.
Till and Besan Laddu
These sweets, called nuvvula laddu, nuvvula undalu, nuvvula mudda in various dialects, are traditionally made for offering to family and extended family around festive times. In addition to its tangible benefits, eating sesame and jaggery is believed in traditional Indian culture to take away bad elements from the minds and hearts of people. Sesame helps retain the Shakti (divine energy) and the blessings of Chaitanya and is believed to eliminate sins if used in drinking water, bathing, applying on the body and in other uses. It is said sesame seeds have a greater ability to absorb and emit sattva (One of the three components in the universe, signified by purity and knowledge) frequencies.
The benefits of besan, or chickpea flour, are a little more temporal but no less beneficial. Besan is high in vitamins like folate, thiamin, and Vitamin B-6 for blood regulation and prenatal health, as well as minerals like iron, magnesium and phosphorous for healthy bones and digestion.
Rava Laddu with Palm Sugar
It may be hard to believe that anything with the name “sugar” could be good for you, but palm sugar is an incredible alternative to the chemically refined white stuff from the supermarket shelves. Made from the sap of the coconut palm, palm sugar contains a wide variety of nutrients, including minerals like potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, manganese, and copper; small amounts of phytonutrients such as polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanidin, antioxidants, inositol, thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid and choline, and 16 amino acids.
For diabetics, palm sugar is the perfect sweetener, with a glycemic index of just 35.
10-Minute, 5-Ingredient Dalia, Brown Sugar Laddu
Looking for a quick way to wow your Diwali guests? Celebrate your delicious style even in a pinch with this 10-minute recipe. The Dalia packs a significant nutritional punch, while the brown sugar provides that smooth, easy flavor that makes laddu so irresistible. Make sure to use fresh ghee to significantly enhance the aroma and flavor.
Rajgira, Coconut and Brown Sugar Laddu
Tiny Seed. Big flavor. That’s amaranth. While the coconut and brown sugar provide a delightful flavor, it’s the amaranth that does the heavy lifting.
Originally a staple of the Aztec diet, amaranth soon made its way to Asia where known as ragjira, its taste, texture, and nutrition earned it the title of “king seed.” The leaves, flowers, and seeds of all three are edible. Amaranth is a great replacement for flour in gluten-free Indian recipes, as it adds texture and flavor while improving the nutritional profile. Amaranth is also an exceptional thickener for the roux, white sauces, soups, and stews.
Replacing flour with amaranth is a major nutritional upgrade. Amaranth is the only grain which contains Vitamin C and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Amaranth also beats most other grains in lysine, an essential amino acid not produced by the body and used to metabolize fatty acids as well as grow strong, thick hair and absorb calcium.
Most of my Diwali recipes offer a quick fix for your sweet tooth. This one’s a little more…deliberate, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
After washing thoroughly, you want the rice in this recipe to moisten and soften for one to three days, but be careful. Too much-dripping water and you’ll be dealing with soggy, waterlogged rice; too dry and you’ll be grinding it into dust rather than flour. Getting it just right will lead to that perfect texture you’ve been dreaming of.
My authentic paala undrallu recipe uses all-natural ghee, a clarified butter made by simmering butter and retaining the pure fat while discarding any impurities. Don’t let that “pure fat” part scare you off: ghee is high in short-chain fatty acids that are great for energy and has been linked to a decrease in coronary heart disease and lower cholesterol.
Enjoy and have a festive Diwali!
Enjoy Diwali recipes here – http://www.ujwalasdelicacies.com/category/diwali-sweets/