Almond and Chocolate Halwa
THEME: #216 VIJAYADASHAMI TREATS
What is Dussehra or Vijayadashami?
Its Monday and today’s recipe is a super delicious Almond and Chocolate Halwa. Dussehra or Vijayadashami is a festival celebrating the victory of good over evil, in North and East India. Lord Rama beheaded the ten headed demon King Ravana who had abducted Sita. Sita was Lord Rama’s wife. The word Dasha means ten and Hara means victory. This important Hindu festival coincides with the culmination of the nine days celebration of Navratri. Vijaya means victory and dashami here refers to the tenth day of the lunar calendar. For most of the south, east and north east of India, this festival marks the end of Durga Puja.
How is Dussehra or Vijayadashami celebrated?
Tomorrow is Vijayadashami or Dussehra. Therefore, effigies of Ravana stuffed with firecrackers will be erected in open fields or areas and set on fire in the evening. For North east, East and South India its the day when clay statues of Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati and Lord Ganesh are immersed in a water body, bidding them farewell this next Durga Puja.
Festival and Food
Any festival in India is not complete without good food which is usually offered to the Gods and Goddesses. These offerings are then called prasadam or prasad, which is enjoyed by all those who attend the festival. A variety of food both sweet and savory is made at home, at community level and enjoyed by all. There is no particular dish that is offered to Gods and Goddesses during Dussehra. During the nine days of Durga Puja, Navratri and Dussehra, people will usually not eat non vegetarian food. Some don’t even cook with onion and garlic during these festival days. Some people fast for all nine days without consuming any grains, pulses and lentils.
The tenth day of the festival marks the end of fasting. As a result a variety of food is prepared. Rasmalai, rasgulla, sandesh, payesh, pantua are famous in West Bengal. Fafda and Jalebi is what Gujaratis enjoy on Dussehra. Maharashtra makes Kadakani, a sweet and savory dish served with green chutney. Appams, payasam and murukku is what you’ll find in South India during this festival. In North India you’ll surely get treated to carrot halwa, besan laddoos, jalebi and kheer.
For this week the group decided to cook a dish savory or sweet that one can enjoy during Dussehra or Vijayadashami. I had all intentions of making fafda, but couldn’t as again I’m about to close down my kitchen and am travelling. Not having all the ingredients at hand, it was time to re plan. This resulted in a hunt for a recipe where I could use my limited ingredients. I narrowed it down to almond halwa as I’ve never made it at home. So here was the right opportunity. Had to even tweak that traditional halwa recipe as I didn’t have any saffron or kesar. A packet of organic cocoa powder is what finally made its way to the kitchen from the pantry store. And I don’t regret at all making almond and chocolate halwa.
What is halwa?
Halwa, halva, halvah is a dense sweet dish usually enjoyed at the end of a meal or along with a meal. The word halwa originates from the Arabic language meaning sweet. Many Eastern Europe countries, Middle East countries, some African countries and the Indian Sub Continent all prepare halwa. The ingredients used may vary from nuts to grains like semolina, seeds, fruits and even some vegetables. Some may be set in a tray and cut into pieces, some may have a semi solid consistency.
A bit about Almond Halwa
Almond halwa is made either from soaked almonds or almond flour. Its sautéed with ghee (clarified butter) and then milk and sugar are added. Its cooked till the liquid evaporates leaving a lovely gooey like paste. Spices like cardamom, saffron, nutmeg and sometimes mace are added. My preparation of almond halwa is a bit different as I added vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Was I happy with the end result? Definitely yes and hubby couldn’t wait to try it as the whole house was filled the aroma of almond roasting. Without much delay, lets get down to the recipe for this gluten free sweet dish. As the halwa can be heavy on the stomach small quantities are usually served.
ALMOND AND CHOCOLATE HALWA
1 cup almonds
2 cups hot water
1 cup milk (dairy or almond)
½ – ¾ cup sugar (or erythritol)
4 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp cocoa powder (use a good quality one)
½ tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
- Soak the almonds in hot water for 10-15 minutes.
- Drain out the water and peel off the skin from the almonds.
- Process the almonds in a food processor to a coarse consistency, a bit like semolina.
- In a pan add milk and bring it to a near boil.
- Add cocoa powder and vanilla extract to the hot milk and stir it well.
- In another wide pan, heat ghee over medium to low heat.
- Add the almond powder and keep on stirring it over low to medium heat till it becomes light brown in colour. This will take about 10-15 minutes. The ghee will begin to separate away from the almond powder.
- Add the hot milk to the roasted almond powder. Be careful to pour from the side as the steam generated may burn you.
- Keep stirring the mixture till it becomes a bit thick for about 3-5 minutes over low heat.
- Add the sugar and mix. Keep stirring and mixing till the halwa comes away from the sides of the pan and you can see the ghee at the edges.
- Add cardamom powder and chopped pistachio. Mix well.
- Serve hot almond and chocolate halwa or serve it cold.
- I used only ½ cup sugar and it was just right for us. Feel free to add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter.
- To make a keto or diabetic version replace the sugar with a sweetener like erythritol or monk fruit sweetener.
- For a traditional almond halwa, omit cocoa powder and vanilla extract. When boiling the milk add some saffron.
- If you use almond flour, the roasting time will reduce but the halwa will not have a coarse texture.
- You can spread the mixture in a greased tray and let it set till you are able to cut it into squares or diamond shape.
- Don’t reduce the amount of ghee used as its difficult to roast the almond powder well with less ghee.
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