Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Divali - Festival of Lights / Gateau Batate

(photo from Wikipedia)
Divali - or Deepavali - as it is also called - was celebrated in Mauritius and several other countries October 17th this year. The Festival of Lights is symbolically celebrated by several rituals, such as cleaning the entire house, even painting if needed, making sweets, sharing the sweets among relatives, neighbor's and friends. Another importance is wearing new clothes, and the most important is lighting up the house with traditional earthen oil lamps, but nowadays electric lamps are more used, firecrackers. Divali is celebrated on the darkest night of the month of Kartik (eight lunar month) of the Hindu calendar, which generally corresponds to the October/November period of our calendar. Divali commemorates the victory of Light over Darkness, that is, the victory of Good over Evil. In India Deepavali is a 4 days festival, while one day only here in Mauritius.

There are all sorts of sweets to be made for Divali. Since we are not that much into celebrations, we made "gateau batate" only, which is deep fried cakes made of sweet potatoes. The ingredients are quite a few - and simple to make, even if it takes some time.


1 kg sweet potatoes
250 grams plain flour (approx)
1 coconut

Boil the potatoes. Be careful not to boil them for too long; they should not be too watery. Peel and mash the potatoes and mix in the flour to a dough. Roll the dough and stick out circles - approx 12cm (4-5 inch) diameter - see photo.

Break the coconut and grate the "flesh". Of course dry coconut powder can be used, but no doubt the fresh one tastes much, much better! Mix with sugar. I have not put any amount of sugar - your choice how sweet you want it.

Add the coconut/sugar mix to the dough/circle and close it carefully. Be careful not to spill the filling on the sides, or else it won't close properly when frying. (The filling will seep out). Here they are ready to be deep fried.

Deep frying in oil until they become "brown", but not burnt. :)


We made the cakes the day before Divali, didn't want too much work on the day itself. In the morning of Divali I mopped the floors, swept and mopped the porch too. My MIL "approved" the "gateau batates"! Yes, these sweets are not always easy to make; it all depends on the sweet potatoes - which quality. DH bought the sweet potatoes from the vegetable market. He asked if the potatoes were fresh or old ones, where the woman said "of course they are fresh!" Well, most of them turned out black inside after boiling, so we believe the woman made a story just to sell the potatoes! More than half of it had to be thrown! :(( Out of what was usable we made 18 cakes, which was enough to share among the family. We got a lot of sweets from DH's youngest sister & family, as well as from MIL and DH's youngest niece next door. She is 12 years old and it was the first time she dared knock our door and wishing us "HAPPY DIVALI"! She's always been very shy, but seems to have improved now. She was wearing a beautiful, brand new "churidar" (short blouse & long skirt and a shawl) - cherry color - and even new shoes! Needless to say how proud she was! :) Later in the night DH's eldest sister & her son popped in - bringing even more sweets! I thought that was all, but the next day MIL gave us more sweets, because she was unable to eat it all! LOL! We lighted the earthen oil lamps on the porch - magic! It looked so beautiful! I prefer these oil lamps to modern electric lamps. Late in the evening we took the dogs for a walk and had a look at the beautifully decorated houses in the area. Lots of firecrackers too. There were still a lot of traffic, people going home or visiting relatives and friends - and some in our area were partying. Lots of fun! :)


zarina said...

That look very familiar. Here in Malaysia, we have the same thing but we usually have the filling savoury by putting some curry powder. Here, it is a one-day event. Thank you for sharing the story behind Divali - i did not know about that.

Nettie said...

these look delicious! do you get pink fleshed sweet potatoes? here near Cape Town we only have the white fleshed ones, thanks for sharing the traditions, Nettie

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

Very interesting holiday. I had never heard of it before. We have a lot of sweet potatoes --here the potatoes are orange color.