Decadent spiced milk. Picture: Supplied
Decadent spiced milk. Picture: Supplied

Foodie shares how he plans to celebrate the Festival Of Lights amid the pandemic

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Nov 3, 2021

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An important cultural highlight of Diwali is spending time with friends, family, and food!

Diwali celebrations are incomplete without festive food preparations.

Despite the fact that most people know little about Diwali, it is one of the most important holidays in India, and among the Indian population throughout the world. Typically a five-day party that is celebrated once a year – at the end of October or the beginning of November – Diwali is commemorated with decadent feasts, an abundance of sweets, fireworks, music, dancing, and elaborate dress.

It is that time of the year when Durban comes together to celebrate Diwali – the Festival of Lights – at the Durban Diwali Festival. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA)

With celebrations coming up, we spoke to foodie and cook, Dhiren Narsai on how he will be celebrating this year.

Narsai says in his home, Diwali is a four to five-day festival with Diwali as the main event. He says in the days leading up, they will be preparing sweet treats and savoury snacks that they will share with friends and family on Diwali day.

“At night we will celebrate the Festival of Lights by lighting diyas on the ground and fireworks in the sky. The day after Diwali is observed as the Gujarati new year, with an early morning trip to the temple followed by a family lunch,” says Narsai.

Asked about the difficulties of celebrating such special days during a pandemic, he says it is travel arrangements and synced time off to ensure that this time is spent with family, access to people, and time spent in their company, noting all the health and safety protocol observances.

Another challenge is personal access to the community for sharing goodwill as well as the lack of communal events like the Durban Diwali Festival, and dealing with yearly religious intolerance, which has peaked due to people's personal frustrations as a result of restricted access and basic respect for diversity. In line with the above, Narsai says the Diwali sharing will be limited to fewer people with shortened contact time. More like a drop-and-go as opposed to visiting and spending time over a cuppa chai.

“Some sharing will have to be done over the weekend due to people still working from home. This year's goodwill has been placed solely in the capable hands of the Jyoti Jivanam Movement South Africa, as opposed to doing it personally,” he says.

Here Dhiren Narsai shares the recipe for decadent spiced milk.

Decadent spiced milk. Picture: Supplied

Decadent spiced milk


3 tbs of butter ghee

50g vermicelli

¼ tsp cinnamon powder

¼ tsp nutmeg powder

½ tsp cardamom powder

50g white rice (pre-soaked)

2 tbs sago or tapioca (pre-soaked)

250ml water.

2 litres of full cream milk

A few strands saffron, optional

250ml fresh cream

2 tbs of milk powder.

One cup sugar or to taste.

Almond slivers (optional)

2 tbsp of desiccated coconut

Toasted almonds and coconut for garnish


In a thick-based pot, heat butter ghee and fry vermicelli till lightly toasted, add powdered spices, soaked white rice, and sago. Give it a stir and then add the water to prevent it from burning. Add 2 litre milk and cook until the rice is soft.

Add saffron, fresh cream, milk powder, sugar, almond slivers, and coconut.

Bring to a boil and allow to thicken to preferred consistency, while stirring regularly.

Decant into cups, garnish with toasted almonds, coconut, and a pinch of fresh cardamom.

As an alternative to the sugar and fresh cream, you may use condensed milk.

Serve hot or chilled with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

This article was first published in the Diwali edition of the IOL Food magazine. Read it here

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