Recipe – Easy Apple Halwa


Lockdown has forced me home and most travel plans stand cancelled but there is poetry, art and cooking to keep me grounded. Winter brings a variety of fruits and veggies to fall in love with. When someone bought orchard fresh apples from Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh I was excited to make a few things apart from munching on their sweet crispy goodness.

On days when everything gets a bit too overwhelming I begin to crave for something sweet yet healthy. Home cooked in a jiffy is my choice of instant desserts. This three ingredient apple halwa is so good I can’t tell you. Simple and easy to assemble. It doesn’t have khoya or milk in it so if you are lactos intolerant this is perfect for you. I love stewed apples so this is a star dish for small hungers. It also reminds me of those delish apple pie fillings I used to make at one time.

It I used both golden and red delicious apples in it. You may use whichever juicy apple you have. The sweeter the fruit lesser the added sugar. I prefer the flavour of the fruit to be the focus of the dish.

It is perfect as a Fasting dish too. Good way to get the kids eating fruits. I use minimal ghee and let me remind you it is a good fat so do not be afraid to use it.

Here is the recipe :

Ingredients :

Apples – 3 large

Sugar – 3 tbsp ( adjust according to the sweetness of fruit. I sometimes use jaggery or brown sugar too)

Ghee \ Clarified Butter – 2 tbsp

Cinnamon \ Nutneg – A pinch

( You can use a pinch or two of Green cardamom powder or apple pie spice mix too)

Slivers of almonds / Cashew as desired

Method :

Wash and pat dry the apples. Peel, core and grate them fine. I prefer this texture but you can give a spin in grinder too to make it bit smoother.

In a heavy bottom or non stick pan add warm ghee and slightly fry the cashews if using. Remove in a plate and keep aside.

Now add the grated or pureed apples to the warm ghee. Keep heat on medium.

Cook till all the juice from the apples evaporates. The mixture might splutter so be careful.

Add sugar and mix well. Continue to cook and stir occasionally so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan. Keep heat low medium.

The addition of sugar will make it liquidy again so keep cooking till water evaporates.

Stir in whichever spice mix you are using.

Here you need to be vigilant. Keep a watch on the texture. It shouldn’t be under cooked like a pudding or over cooked into thick mass. The moment is all comes together turn off the heat.

Add the chopped dry fruits and serve.

If you wish to turn it into squares of barfi you need to just cook a little more and then pour the mixture in a greased plate to set. Cut in desired shape to serve.

You can make the pumpkin halwa the same say. Just steam the grated pumpkin and follow the same steps. Use the deep orange ripe pumpkin for it.

You can mix the two ingredients too. It tastes yup.

This is a simple no fail fall recipe you can try this season. Give it try.

Kali Gajar Ka Halwa |Black Carrot Halwa


 

It is an established fact that carrot halwa is the quintessential winter dessert in North India at least. Usually everyone makes the red carrot halwa, loaded with the goodness of juicy winter carrots, ghee (a good fat), and dry fruits but I absolutely love the black carrot halwa since my childhood. More than the red and the exotic white one which is sold only at Shirin Bhawan, Chandini Chawk, Old Delhi. In Allahabad, Lucknow and nearby areas it was made in many households on regular basis and was one of the top picks for the winter wedding season. It was also part of the Royal Awadhi cuisine.

In Delhi, the safed gajar ka halwa ruled until the red one came and dominated the market after the partition.

Even though it a specialty of Eastern UP, very few shops make and sell it. Kali gajar is not really black but of deep violet hue like the beetroot and is used in Punjab for the preparation of the delicious kanji, a mustard, ginger powder and rock salt-laced tingling appetizer. Interestingly this deep purple variety of carrot is the original carrot.

This traditional gajar halwa is one of the top ones in the lost recipes / delicacies of Indian cuisines. The richness of ghee helps in absorption of fat soluble vitamins in the pigments. Black carrot is rich in flavonoids and Antioxidant anthocyanins among other things. They are considered to be warming in nature and extremely healthy so the halwa was eaten as a tonic to boost the immunity. The halwa is less sweet than the red carrot and has a unique taste and flavor that you need to cultivate and once you do it will become one of your top choices.

For years I made this delicious exactly as I made the red carrot halwa and thought that the astringent taste was part of the package but then as few years back I came across Sangeeta Khanna’s recipe on her blog. I was surprised to know the reason for the strange taste and how the black carrots mask the sweetness of the milk unlike the sweet red ones when cooked in full fat milk. So I learned how to get rid of the problem. It was a game changer for the dish I so love. So, the recipe I am sharing is originally hers and you can find it HERE too.

The Kali Gajar Halwa is rich in ghee ( clarified butter) which is essential for the absorption of fat soluble nutrients of the pigment. So, do make this mouth watering dish before the season for black carrots is over.

Ingredients:

1 kg cleaned peeled and grated black carrots
1 Liter full fat milk reduced to make about 200 gm rabdi like thick consistency)
200 gm sugar
60 gm (2-3 tbsp) ghee or a little more
chopped nuts, raisins for garnish (I usually prefer it without any add-ons)

Method:

Wash, wipe, peel and grate the carrots and keep aside. I usually use a plastic bag over my hands while grating as the pigment is hard to wash off. Be careful of it staining your clothes etc.

( Side note -My aunt used to say one should always use straight carrots and not the deformed twisted ones. I asked her the reason and she gave some popular story about the root resembling the phallic shape and considered aphrodisiac.)¬† ūüėĬ†

Take the full fat whole milk in a thick bottom pan and bring it to boil. Now, reduce heat and let it evaporate and thicken while you prepare the carrots. Keep stirring now and then. I absolutely detest khoya or mawa so never use it. It also changes the original subtle taste which is a complete no no. No shortcuts to good food.

Heat a broad thick bottom pan or wok  on medium flame and generously smear it with ghee. The wok must be large enough to comfortably contain all the grated carrot.

Slid in the grated carrots and stir vigorously for five minutes or till the carrots wilt and reduce. Now, tun the flame to medium and keep stirring. The beautiful flavors will get locked in as the carrots get a little seared. They will get a glorious sheen when this happens.

Once the grated carrot reduces in volume and becomes shiny soft you can mash it a little to get a smooth texture or leave it as it is for that authentic granular texture. I don’t mash the carrots as it is the shredded texture that gives the dish its character.

Add the sugar and mix well. Keep stirring and cooking till all the water released from adding the sugar evaporates. The mixture will become glazed and shine.

By now the milk would have reduced to the required consistency. Stir and scrape all the thick malai from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and remove it from stove. Add the thick evaporated milk to the carrot mixture and mix well. The milk will take on the gorgeous purple hue of the carrots and the kitchen will become fragrant with the aroma and the halwa won’t get the .astringent taste either.

Cook till all the ingredients come together in a mass. The mixture will usually leave the sides. Roast it a little more and remove from heat. 

Garnish with chopped blanched almonds, raisins etc if you desire. The halwa is best served hot.

I can assure you that you will definitely go for another helping.  Do let me know if you prepare this.

Kada Prasad – Recipe And A Food Story


The melodious strains of Gurbani, prabhat pheris, prakash utsav, lagars ( free community meals)  and the unforgettable kada prasad were my initiation to something that would become a very important part of my life.

I was a young girl searching for solace. Drawn to the local Gurudwara by the strains of music I would go inside and get transported to a totally different world. Neither a Sikh nor a religeous person this experience was purely spiritual.

I remembered a Sikh friend’s granny giving me an extremely delicious halwa as prasad. I asked what it was made of and couldn’t believe when she said wheat flour. Now, we too made aate ka halwa but it never tasted like the one from the Gurudwara or from her kitchen. I insisted on other helping which she lovingly gave and told me that prasad is to be eaten like prasad not like mithai.

Whenever I found an opportunity I would visit the nearby Gurudwara for the shabad and for the prasad. The serenity of the place always calmed me down. I learned to prepare this divine prasad from beeji as she was called by my friend. I had just passed out from school and I think that was the last time we met before going our ways. We used to lead the school choir that participated in shabad & Kirtan competitions and still have my winning certificates of merit from Mata Sundari College.

Later, Gurudwara became a spiritual sanctuary for me, a place where I would go and spend hours sitting in complete silence, soaking in the healing viberations. Letting go of all the sorrow that filled my heart. Sometimes the tears would flow but no one paid attention or judged. I was at home inside that place of bliss. It is still a place where I become a witness to myself. Sometimes I would quietly sit by the sarovar and read Sukhmani sahib or Dukh bhanjini sahib. The words cleansed me from inside out. For me it was not just a journey with but a source of strength to cope with what lay ahead.

I still go to Bangla Sahib whenever possible though lately my visits have become irregular. You must do the seva in some Gurudwara at least once in a lifetime. I can not explain the feeling one experiences.

Today, I am sharing that recipe with you. Though I can never replicate the original. It does, however, bring back the same taste from my youth.

These silver katoris are from my childhood. Perhaps presented or bought at birth so about fifty year old. ūüôā

This simple recipe for Kada Prasad doesn’t need any dry fruits or other add-ons. The flavor comes from the roasting of wheat flour in pure desi ghee or clarified butter. Roasting is also the most important aspect of making the halwa. It has to be even and just the right rich brown color or it won’t give you the authentic taste of the prasad. Also, the wheat flour needs to be coarse (Dardara) to get the right texture. You can use the usual wheat flour too but the texture won’t be like the one made in Gurudwaras. Two things that are a MUST in this recipe – Ghee and right proportion of the ingredients. You can not replace Ghee with anything else. Also, the halwa made from prasad is NEVER heated again. Something I learned from beeji.

One of the simplest of recipes and yet the richest. Today being Gurubpurab I decided to make the halwa and distribute to neighbors and family members.

Here is my recipe :

Whole wheat flour ( coarsly ground) – 1 Cup

Sugar -1 Cup

Pure Ghee (Clarified Butter ) –¬† 1 Cup ( Yes, the halwa is laden with ghee and that is why it should be eaten less)

Water – 3 Cups

The proportion is always – 1-1-1-3 You can always double triple or half, quarter the proportion as per need.

 

Steps : 

In a kadhayi heat the water and add sugar to it. Stir to dissolve and keep aside. You can add the sugar directly also. If doing that just heat the water and keep aside for later use. Heating the water ensures that there is no change of temperature when it is added to hot roasted flour. It also ensures even cooking.

In another kadhayi heat the ghee till nicely warm. Add the wheat flour / atta and stir. Keep the flame on slow Рmedium as the flour tends to rapidly change from light brown Рdark brown  and burnt stage.

This is an important process so do it it with patience and love.

You will see the color change, keep stirring till you get to the stage where the color is rich brown and the mixture has a sand like grainy texture. The butty aroma is another sign of an evenly roasted aata. You will also notice the ghee leaving the sides now.

At this point, add the hot sugar water to the wheat ghee mixture. Be careful not to scald yourself. Stir vigorously so that no lumps are formed. Shift to medium heat to ensure the right consistency. Now turn the flame to low and keep stirring till all the water absorbs and the halwa reaches the right consistency. The ghee will starts leaving the sides again once that happens.

Turn off the gas and remove the prasad in a clean bowl. Usually the halwa is covered with a cloth and cut into five portions for each of the Sikh Gurus and then distributed after the prayer and offering.

You can garnish with almonds if not making as prasad.

An interesting fact from my marital village in Himachal –

The village of Mairi has Dera Baba Vadbhag Singh Ji Gurudwara. After the Holi / Baisakhi Mela finishes the devotees or Sangat are offered karah prasad that is kept covered in a large kadhayi locked inside the basement in the gurudwara. After the ardas when the door is opened the prasad has a large hand imprint on it. It is believed that Baba ji comes to bless the prasad. It is then called panje ka prasad. No one knows how that miracle happens but faith keeps the prasad good for years. My MIL says that the prasad never gets spoiled. I will some day write about my experience of the village life etc.

For now, Keep your heart light burning bright. Stay blessed and once again a very blessed gurupurab to all of you. Remember the teachings of Baba Nanak who left us a beautiful treasure of how the life should be.

 

Awwal Allah Noor Upaya Qudrat Keh Sub Banday

Aik Noor Keh Sub Jag Upajiya Kaun Bhale Ko Mandhe

God created light of which all the beings were born

And from this light, the universe; so who is good and who is bad

 

 

Recipe – Sweet Potato | Shakarkandi Halwa


Shakarkand or Sweet Potatos are in season and I am including them in my daily meals in one way or the other. Mostly I love to just roast or boil them to eat as chaat but sometimes I indulge in a dessert like shakarkand ka halwa or shakarkand ke gulab jamun. This is my first sweet potato halwa of the season. Sangeeta Khanna of Healthfood Desi Videshi has some interesting salads and other recipes with sweet potato that I plan to try. Sweet potatoes are very healthy and can be used instead of white potatoes. It is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.

The Indian sweet potato has a nice pink skin and a yellowish white flesh inside.

Frankly I had no idea how creative one can in cooking with them. The tuber is so varsetile that it can be used for soups, salads, cassroles, chips, stir fries, and desserts of all kinds. It can be baked, roasted, boiled or used raw as per the need and taste. The leaves of the sweet potato are also edible. I mean the list is endless. one is just spoilt for choices.

Shakarkand ka halwa is a winter speciality. This sweet tuber is a favorite with people who are fasting and is part of the diwali faraal. Delicate sweetness of boiled mashed sweet potatoes, just the right amount of sugar flavoured with green cardamom gives it a unique taste. I don’t use milk in in the recipe but some people do.

Ingredients for the halwa : 

Sweet Potatoes – 2-3 Medium size (1 cup boiled/mashed)

Sugar – (depends on the sweetness of sweet potato so add accordingly)

Ghee Р 3-4 tablespoon

Green Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp

Almonds or Cashewnuts for garnish

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Method –

Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Wash them clean and boil till they become soft. You can steam, microwave or pressurecook them too.

Once they are tender, take them out in a plate and peel.

Mash and keep aside.

In a heavy bottom pan heat ghee (clarified butter) or oil. ( I prefer ghee).

Add mashed sweet potatoes to the hot ghee and stir.

Let it cook on low-medium heat till the rawness is gone and a nice aroma begins to float from it. Add cardamom powder and saute some more. I saute it till it gives a slightly toasted aroma.

At this point stir in the sugar. Do taste the shakarkand to adjust the sugar. Mix well.

Now, cook it till it becomes nice golden brown.

Keep stiring so it doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan.

When the halwa gets a nice colour add shredded blanched almonds or roasted crushed cashewnuts. I find almonds taste better than cashewnuts. It is a personal preferance.

Take it off the heat and serve hot garnished with more nuts. You can sprinkle some cardamom powder on top.

Tell me how do you use Sweet potatoes?

Semolina Pudding (Halwa/Sheera) with Saffron and Fresh Grated Coconut


I have a sweet tooth and fortunately I have no issues with either ghee or sugar so my preferred desserts are mainly Indian sweets. Every region has its own specialty and a distinct way of preparing the sweets.  Sweets were offered to the deities and were part of every auspicious occasion in Indian households. No meal is considered complete without a sweet dish. Mostly the sweets are made keeping in mind the local ingredients, climatic conditions, geography and cultural heritage.

Indian sweets are mainly f two kinds Рmilk based and flour based. No where in the world one would find such richness of textures, flavours, colors and shapes  in desserts as in India. Many of these recipes originated centuries ago and a lot of them have slowly disappeared from the home kitchens and markets due to the  time-consuming and tedious process of preparing them. Many sweets were just limited to homes and were cooked on special occasions, festivals only. These irresistible delicacies evolved and influenced by other cuisines over the time but they have not lost their original identity, in fact they have become richer and suited to the palate of modern health conscious people.

Some of the desserts like kheer, laddoo and halwa (pudding), barfi  are popular across North India and prepared more than other sweets.  Some variations of these are also used as Prasadam in various temples and in religeous ceremonies at home.

I love¬†Carrot Halwa, Moong daal halwa ¬†and whole wheat halwa but sooji halwa is something one can make in jiffy on any given day when the craving becomes too much to handle. ūüėÄ

Sooji or semlina halwa is one of the most popular desserts in India and there are many variations to the dish. This moist “spiritually infused” comfort food is loved by almost everyone. It looks very easy to make but can go wrong drastically if not made with care. Many new brides are told to make it as their first preparation in the kitchen to judge their culinary skills :D.

Here is my recipe of Sooji halwa with saffron and fresh grated coconut.

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Ingredients :

Sooji / rava or Semolina РI cup (I use the coarse variety not the fine one)

Sugar – 1 cup ( according to the taste)

Grated Fresh Coconut – 1/2 cup

Milk – 2 table-spoon

water – 3 cups

saffron – few strands

Nuts and Raisins – per choice

Green cardamom Р2-3

Clarified butter / Pure ghee – three table Spoon full

IMAG0794

Method :

Warm the milk and add saffron strands to it. Mix well and leave to get the color and flavor.

Dry roast semolina on low flame till pink . (Always slightly roast semolina before putting in away in air light containers. It won’t go bad)

Dry roast fresh grated coconut on low heat till it changes color slightly .

Soak the raisins , almonds etc in some water , drain and keep aside.

Now take a heavy bottom wok or pan and put the clarified butter / ghee in it. Heat the pan on high flame and then lower the flame.

Add sooji /semolina in it and keep stirring till it becomes slightly golden-yellow. Then add grated coconut and green cardamom to it.

Stir the mixture on very low heat till you can get the aroma of the roasted ingredients and make sure not to brown them too much.  Tip: Use wooden spoon or a spatula.

Once done add water and stir quickly so that there are no lumps. Keep it on medium flame.

Add saffron milk and stir. Lower the flame again.

The mixture will bubble and thicken.

Once all the water is absorbed add sugar. (Some people make sugar syrup but I prefer it this way. Adding sugar after the mixture has absorbed ware will ensure that the semolina has properly soaked the moisture and puffed properly. Once sugar is added the process stops)

Gently turn the mixture so that it gets cooked properly . Add raisins and nuts.

Once the halwa gets a nice pudding like grainy texture and leaves the sides. Make sure it doesn’t become too dry or too sticky. Keep heat low.

Making it a few times will get the right texture. After all it is an art. ūüôā Just follow the simple rules of heat adjustments and measurements. Water should be thrice the amount of sooji. 1 cup sooji – 3 cup water. Keep the heat on lower side. Give it some love and patience. There are no short cuts to good cooking. Roast sooji properly or the raw taste will ruin the halwa but do not brown it too much. Keep trying ¬†and you will succeed. I too had my share of horrors when I learned it as a girl. ūüėÄ

Turn off the heat and stir & break the pudding in such a way that it doesn’t form a large mass. Take it out in a serving dish.

Garnish with nuts and serve hot.

IMAG0806

As we say in Hindustani ” meetha khao meetha bolo” ( Eat sweet and speak sweet )

Recipe – Traditional Carrot Halwa


I am a sucker for seasonal produce and ruby red carrots flood the vegetable markets during winter. Sweet and full of healthy nutrients these carrots are not just good as raw salad can also used for making Carrot Pickle ( my recipe)  ,  carrot cake , carrot halwa, carrot barfi , carrot preserve (murraba) / paysam and can be cooked and mixed in variety of way in vegetables/ stews / soups/ pulao / vegetable biryani/ avial etc. I recently had carrot parathas with home made butter and trust me they were out of the world. Do you know how beneficial is the juice of carrots? find out  in my post Carrot Juice Benefits .

Carrot halwa is one of the favorite sweet dishes all across Northern India and is made in variety of ways these days. This Indian Carrot pudding is one of the main sweet dishes on any festival, wedding or other celebrations. With Khoya ( similar to ricotta cheese but lower in moisture and made with milk instead of whey) , condense milk, sugar-free and easy microwave carrot halwa are also popular these days. but

All Indian desserts are time-consuming labor of love. All across the plains of North India you will find pipping hot carrot halwa and hot gulab jamun in every sweet shop all through winter. Most of these shops use khoya which makes the halwa richer. I prefer to make it traditionally in full cream milk over slow fire and the result is a gorgeous deep red aromatic halwa with  a divine taste of thickened milk. Making halwa in milk also helps it carrots to retain their flavor which is usually masked when khoya is used.

The traditional carrot halwa is definitely is not a dish for dieters.  Rich in Vitamin A, proteins, carbohydrates and fat it is  nutritious and filling winter dessert.

I make two types of carrot halwa – one with red carrots and the other with black( deep purple carrots).

Today I want to share recipe for Red carrot Halwa  or gajar ka halwa perfected over the years in my kitchen.  This halwa can be kept in an air tight container in fridge for more than a month.

Ingredients :

Red Carrots – 1 Kg

Full Cream Milk – 1 Kg

Ghee ( Clarified Butter) – 1/2 cup

Mixture of dry fruits РI cup ( raisins, blanched shredded almonds, broken cashew nuts etc. )

Green Cardamom – 6

Sugar Р 1 cup ( according to taste) ( the amount of  sugar depends on sweetness of the carrot too)

Method: 

Choose medium size thin red carrots. These will have thinner yellow middle part which we discard while grating for halwa .

Wash, peel and grate them from the larger side of grater so they retain their texture after cooking.

 

Take a heavy bottom pan or wok and place in on medium flame.

Heat full cream milk and add grated carrots to it when milk begins to simmer.

Let it simmer on low flame after first boil. Keep stirring in between so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Let it cook till all the milk gets evaporated.

 

Once the milk dried up add sugar and mix properly. Keep the flame on medium and keep stirring as at this point the mixture will have tendency to stick to bottom.

The sugar will make the mixture lose water so turn the flame to low and let the water evaporate. The mixture will also get  a gorgeous deep color and aroma by this time.

 

Now that the mixture is almost dry and has started leaving the sides add ghee ( clarified butter).

Keep stirring it till the mixture is nicely roasted It will have a deep red color by now and will smell heavenly of thick milk, sugar and carrot.

Once the ghee leaves the sides and the mixture gets a crispy yet moist texture add crushed cardamoms and slowly the magical fragrance of the spice will begin to blend in with the sweetness of the dish.

Some people stir fry the nuts before adding but I add them in their natural form. Raisins should be soaked for a while before adding.

Turn off the flame and remove the dessert in a serving plate or bowl. Carrot halwa is meant to be eaten hot. Sometimes just for a change I put a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side. The hot and cold of these two favorites is a great combination.

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Enjoy one of the finest and most loved Indian desserts. Try it in your kitchen and share it with loved ones. Do let me know if you relished this winter treat.

Bon Appetit