Diwali tips from award-winning food writer & chef Anjum Anand

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Anjum Anand // Photo: anjumanand.co.uk

For award-winning food writer and chef Anjum Anand, Diwali is the time of the year when you celebrate, cook up a feast and share with your family and friends. Anand, who grew up in London worked across the world in innovative restaurants such as Café Spice in New York, the Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles, and the Park Royal Hotel’s Indian restaurant in New Delhi, loves delicious and stylish food that is simple enough to cook at home. This year however, celebrations are low-key because of COVID-19, says Anand in an exclusive interview with The Indian Sun. But that, she beleives, should not stop anyone from carrying on with the festive culture of cooking and sharing with loved ones at home. Here Anand talks about Diwali and shares with us some recipes and tips for a successful Diwali feast.

🪔 What does Diwali mean to you?

Diwali is the Hindu New Year and after the year we have all had, I think we really must take this opportunity to celebrate a better coming year.  In the run up to Diwali, we spring clean our homes decorate them with flowers or coloured powders and candles to welcome Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity into our homes and lives. Every year, we cook up a feast for friends and family. This year we might not be able to have them over but we will celebrate, cook and share, especially with those who don’t have any family with them. It is a joyful occasion, as well as a time to reflect and prepare for the year ahead.

🪔 How are you celebrating and what is menu list on this occasion?

We are based in the UK, so, this year, we are restricted from physically seeing friends and family outside the household. So this is going to be a much lower key Diwali for us.  Delicious food and quality time with immediate family (within the household) is how we can celebrate this year—along with the focus on inviting in prosperity and positivity for the year ahead (especially relevant this year).

Like all Indian festivals, it is considered good luck to give something sweet to your friends and family so the day before Diwali, or in the morning, my family and I always buy lots of Indian mithai (small self-contained desserts) and Indian sweets and we’re hoping that we may be able to drop some on the doorstep of some of our close friends and family.

And please see below my menu for this year.

🪔 What are the Diwali food recipes you recommend this year?

Our Diwali table is always vegetarian and we always take care to make it special with different flavours, textures and colours. There is always a big bowl of lentils which form the protein element of the meal and then there is a variety of vegetables, cooked in different ways—some stir-fried with spices, some cooked in sauces and there is always some greens, some crunchy bits and some meatier bits, like mushrooms. Indians always pride themselves with a proper Indian vegetarian meal, you won’t miss the meat.

Here are some of my recommendations:

  • TST’s potato cakes with chickpea chaat. See recipe intro here
  • Crispy Lentil Fritters
  • Egg and Chickpea Biryani
  • Classic Rice Kheer
🪔 What are some of the easiest tips for people who are not expert cooks?

Make sure you have a really good recipe to follow.

Have all your ingredients prepped, chopped and weighed out before you start cooking;

As much as possible, try and prepare dishes before—a biryani for example really benefits from time so that could be something you do in the days before Diwali;

Get other people to pitch in—I always get the family involved in the preparation of our Diwali menu. Also ask friend’s and family for their fail safe recipes;

And take short cuts if you can, like using The Spice Tailor products—biryanis take a long time to prepare, but you can use ours and have something on the table in a few minutes.


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