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3 Easy Halwas You Can Make At Home This Diwali
As Diwali nears, I've been receiving frantic calls from friends who want my advice on which Indian sweets they should make for the holidays. Interestingly, many of them have asked me for halwa recipes, especially vegetable-based ones. These dense sweet confections are indeed quick and fairly easy to make. If you're not entirely confident about your kitchen skills, halwa is the way you should go.
Now every region of India has its distinct type of halwa and the ingredients from which it is prepared. I'm partial towards the vegetable ones because they are healthy, light and delicious. Such halwas don't require too much fat (ghee) since the juices from the vegetable aid the cooking process. All you need to do is add a little ghee to finish off and give it that familiar flavour.
Most Indians occasionally crave that one halwa which jogs some memory of childhood or home. But a lengthy cooking process, the use of too much ghee or just a lack of confidence in the kitchen makes many people shy away from making it themselves.
Apart from the traditional sooji aur aate ka halwa that's a breeze to make, here are 2 halwa recipes to make your life easier and healthier. Don't worry, I never compromise on taste - these taste as good or even better than what you may be accustomed to!
Low-Cal Carrot Halwa (Gaajar ka Halwa)
My mother has always had a sweet tooth and an irresistible weakness for sugary delights. However, since she has a heart condition, she has many dietary restrictions too. So over the years, she has mastered the art of making low-fat versions of calorie-laden Indian desserts that still satiate her cravings.
This gaajar halwa is also a godsend for those pressed for time - while traditional gaajar halwa can take anywhere between 2 to 21/2 hours to prepare, this recipe takes only 15-20 minutes! But when you take a bite, you won't be able to tell the difference.
It can't get any more traditional than this! This halwa, or sheera as it is called, is a childhood favourite. It reminds me of my summer vacation days when my grandmother - whom I affectionately called Maa - would come stay with us. Every afternoon, after my mother settled in for a nap, my sister and I would follow Maa as she slowly waddled - she was a rather heavy-set woman - into the kitchen. She would then park herself near the cooking counter, while I, about 8-9 years old, would act as her little assistant. Every day, we would prepare a different kind of halwa - potato, wheat flour, semolina or a combination of ingredients.
For this recipe, Maa would brown the flour, stirring continuously over a low flame. The aroma of the roasted flour would fill me with craving. On hindsight, I fondly remember the patience and love with which she cooked for us, even when it wasn't physically comfortable for her. I dedicate this recipe to my Maa and all the wonderful times we shared in the kitchen.
This halwa recipe may be a little off the beaten path but it is both delicious and healthy, and can be refrigerated for up to 10 days. Using evaporated milk or milk which has been reduced to half by heating adds more flavour to the halwa. But you can use regular whole milk too.