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CALCUTTA A feast for the senses

Autumn in Bengal’s capital is the season of festivals and celebration – think Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year’s Eve all wrapped up into one. When Susan Low visited with former Calcutta-ite Vivek Singh as her expert guide, she found a world of noise, colour and frantic energy, fuelled by a cornucopia of sweet treats worth crossing the globe for


AUTUMN SPECTACULAR People making garlands for the many festivities

Nothing can prepare you for Calcutta’s riotous cacophony. To the gloomadjusted eye of a traveller arriving from autumnal London, it seems the gauge on everything has been jacked right up to 11 – the temperature, the volume, the colour saturation levels, the smells, even the number of bodies that can feasibly be crammed into a square foot.

On our traffic-clogged journey from the airport, the experience is given a surreal twist in the form of blue-painted plaster body parts piled up higgledy-piggledy on flatbed lorries and bullock carts. Arms outstretched, they seem to be waving to welcome us into the city.

The festive season is underway in this metropolis of 14 million people and we’ve arrived slap-bang in the middle of it. Those blue body parts will be assembled into statues of the goddess Kali, after whom Calcutta is named, and will become the focus of the music, feasting and prayer of Kali Puja, the annual festival of the many-armed Hindu goddess.

I’m travelling with Vivek Singh, the chef of London’s Cinnamon Club restaurants. Vivek was born west of Calcutta and worked as a chef at the city’s top hotel, The Oberoi Grand. “Usually after a festival you feel disappointed that you have to get back to work,” says Vivek, “but not in Bengal because you still have so much to look forward to; before Kali Puja there’s Durga Puja, then Lakshmi Puja. And afterwards there’s Diwali, the festival of lights, when everybody visits other people’s houses, exchanging sweets and gifts. Each dinner is more lavish than the last.”

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About delicious. Magazine

As the nights draw in, October’s delicious. brings comforting cheer with Jacob Kenedy’s guide to game cookery, Debbie Major’s best recipes using beer and Maria Elia’s favourite moussaka. You’ll also find Halloween snacks, chocolate cinnamon buns (yum!), guilty pleasure puds (lots of chocolate), Italian midweek suppers, Middle Eastern vegetarian meals and breakfasts to leap out of bed for. Plus (cue fanfare!), editor Karen Barnes reveals the Produce Awards 2016 winners.