Diwali, the five-day festival observed throughout India by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, holds a shared symbolism for all who celebrate: “That light overcomes darkness, good overcomes evil, and knowledge overcomes ignorance,” says Veda Sankaran, recipe developer and creator of Jalsa by Veda spice mixes. One of the several origin stories about Diwali is that it commemorates King Rama’s rescue of his kidnapped wife Sita, one of the major storylines in the world’s most ancient epic poem, the Ramayana. When Rama and Sita return home to live happily ever after, the citizens of their land welcome them by lighting tiny oil lamps all over the ancient city of Ayodhya.
The word Diwali is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word deepavali, which translates to “a cluster or line of lamps,” or diyas. Throughout the holiday, these clay oil lamps are still lit around the home.
Sankaran, who is from the state of Tamil Nadu in South India, emphasizes the diversity of celebrations across India depending on language, culture, and region. For example, “Most people know it as Diwali, but I grew up saying, ‘Happy Deepavali!’ she says. “Like most holidays around the world, it’s centered around family and food. New clothing is gifted, food is shared, and in the evening, firecrackers and sparklers are set off.”
Traditions focus on the preparing and sharing of sweets. In South India, “we usually start our meals with the dessert,” says Sankaran, which is why they’re featured here first. She also notes that Indian desserts are often time-consuming to prepare, and her time-saving approach is non-traditional — but just as delicious.
This dish starts with masala made from a bevy of toasted and ground spices: red chili, coriander, cumin, green and black cardamom, bay leaf, cloves, fennel, star anise, black peppercorn, amchur, cinnamon, and turmeric. Sautéed onions, ginger, garlic, green chili, and tomatoes round out the chickpea stew, served with bhatura, a puffy fried bread made from all-purpose flour “with a little semolina added for crispiness.”
For the masala:
6 red chilis
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 black cardamom pods
4 green cardamom pods
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 small star anise
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 2 ½-inch piece cinnamon
6 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsp amchur powder
Dry-roast all the spices except the coriander powder, turmeric and amchur powder. After cooling and finely grinding the spices, stir in the coriander, turmeric, and amchur powders. There will be enough masala to make the chole at least 3 times. Store in an airtight container.
For the chole:
2 tbsp oil
2 green chilies sliced vertically
1 large onion finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp ground masala
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15.5 oz can chickpeas
1 cup water
Salt to taste
2 tsp ghee
Heat a pan and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once heated, place in the split green chilies, followed by a little of the chopped onions, the ginger, and garlic. Stir and then add the remaining chopped onions with a little salt.
Cook, stirring occasionally until onions become lightly golden, approximately 4-5 minutes on medium heat. At this stage, add the tablespoon of the ground masala. Stir and within 30 seconds or so, add the chopped tomatoes. Use the side of your spoon to crush the tomatoes.
Cook until tomatoes darken in color and raw masala smell goes away, continuing to crush the tomatoes with your spoon. After 10-12 minutes, place in the chickpeas with 1 cup of water, stir and cover. Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, occasionally uncovering to stir and smoosh some of the chickpeas. Place in the ghee at the end before removing from the heat, serve with bhatura or chapatis.
Note: To reduce the spiciness, simply reduce the number of red chilis in the masala and reduce or omit the green chili
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp fine semolina
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil
4 tbsp room-temperature milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1. Add all dry ingredients into a large-mouthed, shallow bowl.
2. Stir together using your fingers or a fork. Then, pour in the oil, using your fingers to incorporate.
3. Next, pour the milk in a little at a time to bring the mixture together. Place in the yogurt by the spoonful, working it into the flour between each spoonful to form a dough ball.
4. Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Use the heels of your hands to roll and knead. The dough should not be too dry or too sticky.
5. Cover with a damp paper towel or cloth and place in a warm place for at least an hour or up to 3 hours.
6. Divide the dough into 8-10 balls depending on what size you want the bhatura to be, cover again, and let sit for 10 more minutes.
7. When ready to prepare, roll into circles that are not too thick. Don’t roll too many at the same time as the dough will dry out.
8. Heat oil and place one of the rolled-out dough circles in the oil, spooning the hot oil over it. Use your spoon to lightly press on the dough as this will help the bhatura to puff up. Flip the bhatura over once to evenly cook the other side.
9. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain off any excess oil. Serve immediately.
RECIPES AND STYLING BY VEDA SANKARAN / STORY BY NICOLE BARLEY / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE BRYCE
Don’t miss a single delicious thing:
Subscribe to TABLE Magazine here!