It's been awhile since my last post. First, I spent a week making soup for Alan who was recovering from a messy cold, and then I had more dental surgery. It seems I had a screw loose. No big news to most who know me. However, it was a screw holding one of my dental implants in my head. Seems I've been grinding my teeth at night (gee, wonder why?) and managed to partially unscrew my post. Soooooo a bit of clean-up work by the maxiliofacial surgeon and one night guard later, I'm back cooking and eating again, with the warning to keep it on the soft side for a week or so.
So, what's it like when you're ordered, ordered I say, to feast on ice cream and milk shakes for a week? Yeah, I could also have oatmeal, cottage cheese, dal and yogurt but we're talking about the fun stuff. After a day or so it gets boring. I was looking for a way to change it up and I started thinking about halwa, or halva. You say halwa, I say halva. Either way it's easy, tasty and doesn't have to be dripping in ghee and sweetened condensed milk to taste good and naturally sweet.
I've looked at a lot of halwa recipes over the years. Most rely on lots of sugar or sweetened condensed milk. There had to be another way. There had to be because I wanted to make this stuff and I didn't have a can of sweetened condensed milk in the house and couldn't stomach pouring a cup and a half of sugar into lovely organic apples. I could always have jerry-rigged a substitute for the milk, but what would happen if I used coconut milk? I always have coconut milk. I used butter in making this recipe, but it's easily turned vegan if one uses coconut or another vegetable oil to cook the apples. As to the sweetener, one thing I found was that if you have good quality apples one needs less sugar.
I did a simple taste test. I bought organic fuji apples, which looked like the runty cousins of the gigantic, shiny, brightly colored big fuji apples that are not organically grown. I took a slice of each, the flavor difference was a no-brainer. The little apples, actually tasted like apples and were no match for the bigger more flavorless fruit. I'm not even getting into issues of pesticides, GMO, etc. I'm simply talking flavor. More flavor means one needs less sugar for cooking. What I got was a halwa that tasted of the fruit, with no dairy, no gluten and very very little added sugar.
Here's What You Need:
6 apples, peeled, cored and diced.
2 Tbs of unsalted butter, ghee, coconut or other vegetable oil to turn the recipe vegan
2 Tbs water, or more if needed
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 to 2 Tbs of sugar, I used I Tbs of jaggery
1/4 cup of sultans (golden raisins)
1/4 cup of halved cashews
1 Tbs oil for toasting cashews and raisins
3 Tbs of finely chopped pistachios
1 tsp of ground cardamom
A pinch of cinnamon or to taste
Here's What To Do:
Core, peel and chop the apples.
In a kadhai or skillet, heat the ghee, butter or oil until it's hot.
Add in the apples and cook them at a medium high heat for about 10 minutes or so until they start to brown and soften. I needed to cook mine longer.
When the apples have softened, add in 2 Tbs of water.
Turn the heat down to medium low and let the apples cook down for about 15 minutes or so.
Stir them every so often so that they don't stick or burn. The sweeter the apples the more chance of them sticking, so stay on it. This will also give you an indicator of how much sweetener (if any) you need to add.
As the apples cook down, mash them with the back of your spoon. If that doesn't work feel free to break out your potato masher. I did. Cook them down for another 10 to 15 minutes. It may take more or less time depending on the apples. The texture you're looking for here is soft, and yet slightly chunky, like a good homemade apple sauce. Not a puree.
To ease the cooking progress I actually put a lid on the pan for the last few minutes of cooking, making sure to check and stir every few minutes to avoid burning. If you need to add a bit more water feel free to do so.
While this is going on, in a small pan or skillet heat 1 Tbs of oil or ghee.
When the oil is hot add in the cashews and raisins.
Roast them in the pan until the raisins are plump and the cashews lightly toasted.
Set them aside.
When the apples have cooked down properly add in the sweetener. I used jaggery.
MIx the sweetener in well, until tit's dissolved.
Add in 1/2 cup of coconut milk.
Turn the heat up a bit and make sure the coconut milk is well blended.
Stir the apple mixture until all the coconut milk is absorbed.
When you have a nice thick, chunky apple mixture add in the raisins and cashews.
The halwa can be served either warm or cool.
I served it at room temperature topped with a bit of unsweetened Greek yogurt, and a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachios. A perfectly lovely guilt free dessert, that relies on the quality of the apples and not a lot of extra sweeteners.
Coming up next, my birthday is on Tuesday and I'll be dishing up some buffet ready Indian street food for a party on Saturday, with some special treats for my gluten free, vegtarian, and vegan friends. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori