Growing up in Gujarat in India, Deepavali was the occasion that housewife Anjana Doshi looked forward to most.
Her family home would be a hive of activity, with relatives and friends streaming in from 6am to midnight. Visitors would feast on a buffet of mithai (traditional Indian sweets), snacks, chocolates, ice cream and dried fruit.
This was also bonding time with her 17 cousins, who would visit from Mumbai. The home would be decorated with rangoli (colourful floor patterns) and everyone watched firecrackers being set off on the streets at night.
The 49-year-old housewife says: "I got excited only one week before the big day, after weeks of spring-cleaning. My mother and I would make festive goodies such as murukku and ladoo."
These days, her Deepavali celebrations in Singapore, where she has been living for 24 years, pale in comparison.
She says: "It feels very different here. Friends are scattered and it is difficult to come together for big celebrations."
To get into the festive mood, she starts making mithai and snacks a week before Deepavali, which is on Oct 29 this year.
The sweets and snacks - symbols of happiness and good luck - are an ubiquitous sight during the Festival of Lights, which marks the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
Her celebrations centre on a potluck party with a group of 25 friends and family, for which she whips up dishes such as pav bhaji (a vegetable curry) and chocolate biscuit pudding.
She also makes snacks such as chevdo, a Gujarati speciality of roasted flattened rice, puffed rice, and cornflakes; poori, a spicy disc-shaped cracker, and chorafali, fried crackers made with gram, urad and moong dhal flour.
Mrs Doshi shares her recipe for ghughra, one of her favourite festive snacks.
Her version of the deep-fried dumpling, which resembles a curry puff, is plump with crushed almonds scented with saffron, cardamom and cloves.
Making ghughra is significant for her as it was the first Deepavali snack she learnt to make from her grandmother.
While her mother did not trust her to cook in the kitchen when she was a teenager, her grandmother opened her kitchen to her and taught her the basics of Indian cooking, such as rolling out chappati and cooking dhal curry.
It was only when she turned 16 that her mother realised that she was serious about cooking and started to teach her.
Besides Indian food, Mrs Doshi, who is a vegetarian, enjoys cooking a melting pot of cuisines.
She cooks two meals for her family daily and makes dishes such as tacos, burritos, lasagna, hummus and baba ganoush (eggplant dip).
Her husband, 50, owns a textile company, and they have a son, 21, and a daughter, 18.
On top of reading cookbooks and browsing websites, her secret to widening her cooking horizons is to dine out. She relishes the challenge of figuring out what goes into dishes that she has tried in restaurants and re-creates them at home.
"When you have a passion for cooking, you don't mind putting in the extra effort to experiment with food."
MAKE IT YOURSELF: GHUGHRA
For the dough:
120g plain flour
2 Tbsp melted ghee
For the stuffing:
120g almonds, skin on
5 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 to 3 saffron strands
2 Tbsp melted ghee
120g melted ghee (for frying)
1. Mix plain flour, melted ghee and water by hand in a mixing bowl until the mixture comes together as a ball. Set dough aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Place almonds in a food processor and let the machine run for two minutes.
3. In a pan set over medium heat, toast ground almonds for one minute and turn off the heat. Pour the almonds into a mixing bowl, add sugar, cardamom powder, saffron and melted ghee. Mix the contents well with a spatula.
4. Pinch about 6g of dough from the ball of dough. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a 5cm-wide disc. Dab water around the circumference of the dough. Place one teaspoon of the almond filling in the centre. Fold in half and pinch one side of the dough to seal it. Push the filling towards the sealed end of the dough and add another 1/2 tsp of filling. Pinch the remaining edges of the dumpling to seal it.
5. To crimp the edges of the dumplings, press down a spot with your fingers and fold inwards (pictured). Crimp the entire edge.
6. Repeat until the dough and filling are used up. Insert a clove in the middle of each dumpling.
7. Pour ghee into a pan set over low heat. Once the ghee is bubbling, add three dumplings into the pan at one time. Turn the dumplings constantly using a spatula and fry them for two to three minutes till they turn light brown.
8. Place the fried dumplings on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the excess oil and let them cool for two to three minutes. Repeat until all the dumplings are fried.
9. Serve or store them in an airtight container. They will keep for two to three weeks.
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.