On Sunday 12 November, around 1.2 billion people around the world will celebrate the Hindu festival of lights. Diyas (lamps) will be lit, fireworks will light up the sky, families will gather to feast, and sweet treats will be shared. One of the most beautiful traditions, celebrated by many, is baking a tray or box of sweetmeats and biscuits to share with neighbours, friends and family.
Lorraine Maharaj is a food blogger and recipe developer based in Johannesburg who remembers celebraing Diwali in Durban in her youth.
“I was raised in Durban and as we know Durban has a culture of keeping people together. Every Diwali, our home was full of loved ones sharing our favourite thing, food. Writing this now it makes me miss home so much and the good old days. I miss that warmth, that sense of unity and togetherness.
Moving to Johannesburg was a bit of a culture shock, Diwali is not as colourful and warm. However, I try and make it special for my family. We start our day off by offering thanks to God, so it starts with making prasad (devotional offerings) and then praying. Of course, thereafter it’s making a special meal for my family – I often invite my sister’s family and my sister-in-law’s family. I bake everyone’s favourites and we spend the day eating and laughing.
In the evenings, the most beautiful part is lighting diyas and placing them all around our home. This truly signifies the essence of Diwali, the triumph of light over darkness.”
These shortbread sticks are a perfect gift idea. You can make them bougie by tying a small ribbon on each of them and placing them in a box. They’re pretty to look at and delicious, too
These little morsels of heaven are usually made during Christmas time in Goa with the addition of an egg. I omitted the egg and thought they would fit perfectly in Diwali boxes, too.
This recipe turns ordinary burfi extraordinary with the addition of pistachios and white chocolate. These truffles make a delectable Diwali treat.
Tahila Pillay is not Hindu herself but grew up celebrating with Hindu family members in Pietermaritzburg. As a trained pastry chef– having worked at The Test Kitchen, no less – she has mastered the art of sweet meats.
“Growing up in a Christian home, we never celebrated Diwali religiously. We did, however, celebrate culturally with our neighbours and family friends. They would go out of their way to bring us a box of delicious treats! It always came with wholesome conversation, long catch-ups and a hot cup of tea! That’s how Diwali came to have a special place in my heart, spending time with those I care about. To me, Indian culture is about sharing, caring and generosity.”
This decadent soji cake is my absolute favourite! To me, it accurately represents its cousin, soji. I especially love this recipe because everything is toasted, which gives the cake a nutty, wholesome flavour! The best part? It’s all made in the same pot! No mixers or special equipment needed here.
Have you ever craved that decadent, soft soji served at weddings? You know, the one made on the fire in a massive pot? This recipe will give you the fix you’re looking for, and you won’t believe how easy it is! This recipe is adapted from my Aunt Venny’s famous soji recipe.
I love this recipe because it’s super soft, creamy and decadent! The added milk powder works wonders! It’s almost like a coconut ice-burfee hybrid in the BEST way! No fuss, no baking or cooking needed. It’s definitely a wonderful and quick addition to your Diwali box.
This burfee recipe is very close to my heart! Growing up, burfee was my favourite sweet meat, so I made it my mission to create the perfect burfee recipe. To me, the perfect burfee is creamy, soft and chewy, which is exactly what this recipe turned out to be over the past few years of trial and error! I especially love using real pistachio paste as opposed to essence, I find it gives the burfee an extremely luxurious taste and texture!
Rohann Chetty is looking forward to celebrating her childhood traditions with her own kids.
“Diwali, for me, is a bridge between my childhood memories and the experiences I want to create for my children, especially since we live away from our parents and extended family. It’s a time to recreate the warmth and joy of Diwali celebrations I remember from my youth, to make sure that my children also develop a deep connection to our Hindu heritage.
During this time, I reflect on the values that have been passed down through generations – compassion, righteousness and spiritual enlightenment. It’s a reminder to dispel our inner darkness and radiate goodness into the world, just as the diyas illuminate our home, symbolising the triumph of light over darkness and distance from our loved ones, we create our own intimate Diwali traditions. We prepare traditional sweets and savoury dishes,that fill our home with the enticing aromas of our heritage, the fragrances of delicious Diwali delicacies.
My fondest memory of Diwali is celebrating it in my hometown, Chatsworth in Durban, where the community came together to light up the night sky in a grand, unified celebration. Times have changed, yet Diwali remains a testament to the resilience of our heritage, adapting to changing times while preserving the essence of our beliefs.”
A rich and nutty, buttery shortbread biscuit that melts in your mouth.
Laddoo boondi is a popular Indian sweet treat. It’s made from small, deep-fried, pearl-sized drops of gram flour (besan) batter. These tiny fried balls are called ‘boondi’. The boondis are then soaked in sugar syrup to sweeten them.