This halwa is a rich, sweet and deeply satisfying dessert. You can make it as light as you like or cloyingly sweet, depending on your tolerance levels of sugar.
In my mind, it is firmly associated with Diwali and the accompanying preparations. As if this ‘labour of love’ halwa wasn’t festive enough, for Diwali, it was encased in a light and crispy pastry to make ‘shingdya’. (These look like mini pasties and are also known as karanjis or neuris depending on where in India you hail from.)
Diwali preparations would begin a good week to ten days in advance of the festival itself. A rota of tasks was allocated – cleaning, dusting, drawing rangolis, helping with the lighting, organizing fireworks et al. To encourage us to help, a special treat would be on offer – helping Aji (grandma) to ‘test’ (taste) the many sweet and savoury snacks that were made for the festival. (Too many to name, but you could take a look at some examples, here and here.)
Dudhi halwa was an all time favourite of my grandfather. It had to be ‘adjusted’ many times until it was just right – read, very very sweet. 🙂 He was diabetic but didn’t really care. He firmly believed that if his tongue approved, his body would acquiesce.
So, here it is, in his memory and in memory of all the beautiful and joyous Diwalis we spent with him.
1 medium dudhi (bottle gourd) grated (yields about 2 cups)
3/4 – 1 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
a pinch of nutmeg powder
Mawa (aka Khoya) – see notes section below
- Peel & grate dudhi. (The ratio of dudhi to sugar is approximately 2:1. However, I have toned it down and used 3/4 cup).
- In a heavy bottomed pan, cook the grated dudhi on a very slow fire, stewing it in its own juice till it is half cooked.
- Add sugar and mix well.
- Cook for another 8-10 minutes till the water evaporates and the halwa is dry.
- Turn off the heat and let cool.
- Add the spices and 2-3 tablespoons of mawa and mix well.
This halwa can be served hot or cold.
- You can buy the khoya, if available in stores near you. If not, follow the recipe below.
- Ina heavy bottomed pan, add 500 mils of full fat milk. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar (more, if you like). On high heat, stir it continuously until it is cooked down to about 4-5 tablespoons. It should be the consistency of ricotta cheese or mashed potatoes. (It should take about 30 minutes or so for this process.)