The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy to make that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the process of making the dishes and drinks we can make with our eyes closed.
My childhood memories are inextricably linked with my mum’s cooking. At home, the kitchen is her sanctum sanctorum. She’s protective toward her masala box and her VIP (Very Important Pan). And she has many signature specialties, like shrikhand that makes a regular appearance on my dad’s birthdays, or pasta arrabbiata that made it into my lunch boxes.
One dish, in particular, expanded three decades in our home: halwa, a South Asian sweet dish that’s so easy, it birthed the colloquial phrase “Halwa hai, kya?” meaning “Is it that simple?”
Mum made her debut halwa while observing Solah Somvaar Vrat, a fast for 16 consecutive Mondays, though her devotion propelled her to continue it to date. This vrat reputedly brings prosperity and a good life partner, and typically sweet treats like ladoo or barfi are prepared as prasad, or a religious offering. My mum’s choice: this halwa. Our Mondays begin with the aroma of ghee-roasted whole-wheat flour, which jiggles on the plate and melts in the mouth. Here’s her version, made in minutes and devoured in seconds.
Here’s how to make My Mum’s Whole Wheat Halwa:
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup water and ⅔ cup grated jaggery (or jaggery powder) over medium heat, until jaggery is dissolved. In a large skillet, combine ⅓ cup ghee and ⅔ cup whole wheat flour over medium heat. Toast the flour, stirring vigorously and continuously to prevent it from burning. (If you’re still seeing dry pockets of flour after a couple minutes, add a few drops of ghee at a time to fully incorporate.) It’s ready when it develops a deeply brown, walnut-y color and smells toasty, after about 5 minutes. Caution: Some spluttering might occur. If you’re feeling fancy, this would be when you would add ¼ tsp. crushed cardamom.
Quickly pour the hot jaggery water into the toasted flour. Stir, stir, stir! Once the halwa separates from the ghee and doesn’t stick to the vessel’s edges, it’s ready—it should be pudding-like and almost gelatinous. Add ⅓ cup chopped nuts (like almonds, cashews, or pistachios) for some crunch. Immediately transfer to individual bowls, serve, and relish.
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