Saturday, June 12, 2010

Super easy badam/almond halwa

When we were growing up, almonds were a luxury. They were mainly a product of the beautiful state of Kashmir and was sold in the ration/grocery shops or, as in Delhi, on the roadside.
I remember my mother telling me once that the price was 500 Rs. a kilo.
When I was growing up, that was an unaffordable price for us.
Almonds were thus not an item usually found in the home kitchen.

When my Dad took us kids out in a FORD V8 on Sundays for a treat, one of us invariably ordered badam halwa . We would sit at the old drive-up restaurant in Cubbon Park, Bangalore, and unwrap the banana leaf the badam halwa came packed in, trying not to get the dripping ghee on our clothes and then enjoy every bit of the delicacy. The piece we were served would be about one inch by two, one millimeter thick and so very rich.

When my mother got some almonds, it was an EVENT for her...just slightly less important than the black puttu rice I mentioned earlier in the blog.
We kids sat around the dining table and helped shell the almonds.
Then they were soaked overnight in hot water and the troops were again mustered in the morning to peel hard it was to get those almonds out, yet no complaints were voiced by minds already contemplating the enjoyment of the dishes my mother would concoct for us.

Most people who did make it 'faked it' by using cashew nuts, a very few almonds and adding almond essence for the flavor.

The quintessential badam halwa was Mom's favorite dish. She would use milk and sugar instead of the condensed milk and milk powder I have substituted in her recipe. She would cook it to the setting stage and then pour it into a greased plate and cut it into diamonds.
Then there was her badam kheer/payasam which was super delicious.
Best loved by us kids and all guests, was Mom's almond ice cream, with my brothers or the servant churning the old wooden barrel. How much anticipation laced the air, while we waited for Mom to pronounce the ice cream ready to eat. We would line up eagerly for our bowls, then run into the garden to enjoy the treat. No amount of money can buy the memories of home a good mother creates for her children.

1 cup almonds/badam
1/2 cup milk (if you are using a blender to grind nuts).
1 14 oz can of condensed milk
2 cups milk powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder.

Blanch almonds.
TIP: Place nuts in water in a microwave safe dish and zap for 2-3 minutes. Be sure the water bubbles.
Wait a few minutes before you remove the bowl from the microwave to avoid 'flash' burns.
Cool or rinse immediately in cold water and then peel. The almond sheds its skin so easily!

Blend almonds medium coarse aka slightly grainy.
In the food processor it does not need milk, but in a blender it will so that the blades don't get jammed up.
(we used to fry this almond paste in butter, but I skip this in the interest of our already clogged arteries.)
Place almond paste on stove on medium low with condensed milk and milk powder.
Stir continuously till almond halwa falls as a mass from the spoon.
This will burn quickly so keep stirring.
Mix in cardamom powder and remove halwa from stove.
Place in bowl...can be served hot or cold.

As this is a 'rich' sweet I serve about a rounded dessert spoon in a small bowl/dish, as the picture shows.

If you want the burfee, let the almond mixture cook to setting stage and then pour into a greased plate, cool and cut into diamonds. Stir constantly.
The old test for doneness with a burfee was if it left the bottom of the pan when a path was made by a spoon and stayed at the sides without running back to cover the bottom of the pan.
Another test was dropping a little bit of the mixture into a bowl of water and rolling it into a ball...if it rolled easily, it was ready.
Nowadays cooks use a candy thermometer for the setting stage which has soft set and hard set marked on it...go close to hard set before removing the mixture from the stove.
I just use the old eyeball and spoon method. If it doesn't set the way it should, I have two choices: return it to the stove and cook it some more thereby messing another pan or dig in with a spoon and a philosophical 'there's always a next time' shrug.
Guess which alternate I opt for?

Another way to serve is rolled into half inch balls.

Burfees/sweets cut best when just about to set.
Dip a knife in warm water to cut in neat lines.

SHORTCUT: This halwa can be made in the microwave too.
Mix all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl.
Mic for 2 mins, remove, stir and mic for another 2-3 mins. Stir.
Keep doing this till you get the halwa consistency.

I thought of this after following the stove top method and scrubbing the pot I made the halwa in...just like a tube light...flicker, flicker, flicker and then the brightness!

And yes, the petals around the plate are from one of the striped roses in my garden.

1 comment:

lan said...

mmmm... homemade halwas are a weakness. i thought it was a lot of hardwork, the microwave version sounds interesting.. love badams. we used to have badam trees around when growing up. not sure if they are still there... are those petals of hibiscus? pretty..