IF there is one sweet dish that rivals the pan-Indian footprints of kheer, aka payas and payasam, it is the halwa in its many avatars. Sooji and atta are the most commonly encountered ones and there are countless variations, prepared with seasonal fruits and vegetables, even lentils.
Bawarchis of Awadh, always striving to stun their patrons with fantastic novelties, even created gosht ka halwa that is experiencing a welcome rebirth at the hands of celebrity chefs, many of whom have happily stumbled upon it while searching for their roots and lost recipes.
Historians tell us that the halwa most likely reached Indian shores in Kerala with Arab traders sometime in the first millennium. But this view is strongly contested by others, who remind us of the celestial nymph Menaka who interrupted sage Vishwamitra’s tapasya by placing a small portion of delicious halwa on his lips.
There are those who contend that halwa is the child of this soil; its name is derived from the Sanskrit word avaleh.
Celebrity chefs cooking on the TV shows have popularised many offbeat halwas like seb (apple), mirchi (green chilli) and hare chane ka halwa. There are many twists ’n’tweaks they have imparted to classic ones like sohan halwa, badam halwa or jauzi halwa from Hyderabad/Lucknow.
During a visit to Surat, the famous food city in Gujarat, we had enjoyed akhrot ka halwa.
We must confess that we have always had a weakness for Karachi halwa that was swiftly renamed Bombay and Sindhi halwa after Partition.
During a recent visit to Bengaluru where myriad culinary streams mingle, we were treated to a delicious and exceptionally rich anjeer ka halwa that was refreshingly different. What added to our happiness was the assurance by Chef Qureshi that it can be easily prepared at home. Well, to cut a long story short, we lost no time in purloining the recipe and are delighted to share it with our dear readers. The festival season is nearing and we urge you to try this one out.
Anjeer or goolar, as the pear-like fruit is called in Hindi, is believed to have many beneficial properties according to Ayurveda. It’s a rich source of minerals, vitamins and is a mild laxative. Enjoy it hot!
ANJEER KA HALWA
Dried figs 1-1/2 cups
Almonds 1/4 cup
Khoya (grated) 1/2 cup
Green cardamom 3-4
Sugar 2 tbsp or to taste
Ghee 2 tbsp
Fresh figs For garnish (optional)
Clotted cream For garnish
Silver or gold varq For garnish (optional)
Wash the dried figs well to remove grit, then soak in three cups of water for three to four hours. Make a puree in a blender along with the water in which the anjeer has been soaked. Keep aside. Soak almonds in water for three to four hours, remove skin and ground to a coarse paste. Heat ghee in a thick-bottomed pan and add the almond paste. Stir fry on low-medium flame for two minutes, add sugar. Keep stirring constantly to caramelise the sugar. Now add the puréed anjeer. Increase flame to medium-high and continue stirring continuously. Sprinkle crushed green cardamoms and the grated khoya. Stir well to blend. Cook till the halwa acquires a rich brown hue and releases ghee. Garnish with slivers of dry fruits and drape with chandi ka varq, if using. Decorate the plate with tiny anjeer shaped blobs of cream.
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