Indians worldwide celebrated Diwali and New Year’s this past week. Diwali lasts about 5 days and is celebrated in unique ways by all faiths that have origins in South Asia. Each day has it’s own unique traditions and rituals, that share a simple message: the triumph of good over evil.
For Hindus, it’s a celebration of when Sita, Ram and Laxman returned from exile, which ushered in a new era of peace and prosperity for the kingdom. The trio relied mainly on the help of others to overcome obstacles while in exile. Hence, Diwali also reminds us of our responsibility as human beings in making this world a better place for all. There are many reasons as to why they were sent into exile, which can be learned through the epic poem, The Ramayan.
The Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhod Diwas or Prisoner Release Day around the same time as Diwali. In 1619, the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Gobind Singh, was released from Muslim-Mughal prison at Gwalior Fort, along with 52 Hindu Kings.
Part of the message of Diwali is also the importance of purification. This is represented through the physical and symbolic cleansing of homes, vehicles, valuable coins, currency, jewelry, books and in modern times, various forms of technology. The significance of lighting up fireworks and divas (small ghee or oil fueled lamps) in and outside of homes is to ward off negative vibes, thoughts, and feelings.
Lots of sweets are made and devoured during these days. My Zucchini-Lemon Halwa is a vegan variation of the classic Halwas that are sometimes made of calabash, carrots or semolina. I cooked down lemon zest and shredded zucchini in coconut oil and almond milk. To sweeten it, I used a combination of brown and demerara sugar and gently spiced with it five-spice blend and cardamom seeds. Finally, I finished it off with fresh lemon juice, chopped almonds, pecans and cashews.
2 cups Zucchini, shredded
Zest of 1 medium Lemon
3 tbsp Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Demerara Sugar
1.5 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Almond Milk
1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (5 spice blend works too)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Cardamom Seeds
1 tbsp Coconut Oil
Pinch of Salt
Chopped Nuts of your choice to Garnish
Heat coconut oil in a medium sauce pan on medium heat
Add in shredded Zucchini, lemon zest and a pinch of salt
Cook for about 3 minutes and let some water release and evaporate
Add in Sugar, vanilla extract, cardamom seeds and pumpkin pie spice
Stir well for about 2 minutes and let sugar caramelize
Then add in the Almond milk and turn the heat up to high
The almond milk should thicken and reduce after about 3-4 minutes
Pour in the Lemon juice and stir well
Add some the chopped nuts and turn the heat off
Taste and adjust sugar if lemon juice is too tart
Garnish with some more chopped nuts and serve warm
Suggestion - a scoop of some citrus sorbet on top would make this an amazing holiday dessert
From my family to yours, Happy Diwali and a very happy Hindu New Year!