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Winter Special - Besan ka Halwa

Though we are miles away from home, we usually celebrate all the Indian festivals in the way best possible. This year too, we celebrated both Lohri and Makara Sankranthi keeping up with the Punjabi-Telugu tradition. Undoubtedly, the celebrations don't have the same pomp and fun usually the festival brings along with it, in India. Every festival I celebrate away from home, takes me back in time and I end up musing over the fun we had while growing up with my family, cousins and relatives and Makara Sankranthi this year isn't any different.

For the uninitiated, Lohri/ Makara Sankranthi is the harvest festival celebrated in India. It is known by different names in different states. Irrespective of the slightly varied rituals, Sun is the main deity worshipped during this festival along with the cattle group who are considered the farmers' friends who assist them in farming. Bonfire, kite flying, vibrant rangolis, bright traditional wear and lip smacking elaborate festive food are the other highlights of this multi day harvest festival. I have described in detail about this festival and how we used to celebrate, in an article earlier. I am sharing the link here, in case you want to know more.

This year, I wanted to try my hands at a different type of sweet for Lohri, using Besan (gram flour) to suit the occasion. Lohri is a popular Punjabi winter festival, celebrated primarily in North India. It slightly resembles Bhogi, but not in entirety. Both have bon fire, dance, music, good food and of course, a lot of fun. But Bhogi is celebrated at dawn where all the old and unused things (wooden logs, mats, rags, solid fuels etc.) are discarded in the fire. In case of Lohri, the bon fire is lit at dusk using new wooden logs and people throw peanuts, jaggery, sesame, rice etc. into the flame. 


I prepared Besan ka halwa (a sweet made using gram flour) for Lohri, sweet pongal in an instant pot (instead of an earthen pot😜) and a very simple & delicious lunch for Sankranthi. You can check out the video on the sweet pongal and lunch spread I prepared for Sankranthi below.

Besan ka halwa not only tastes great, but is very healthy and highly suitable for the cold winter weather. Gram flour is rich in protein. To make this halwa even healthier, I used jaggery as the sweetening agent. Generally, halwa preparation calls in for more ghee to acquire its gooey consistency. But besan halwa has to be fluffy (as shown in the picture) and not gooey, so it needs lesser ghee. I know this makes the sweet lovers raise eyebrows, but trust me it tastes absolutely delicious. 

Below is my tried and tested recipe. Do try it yourself and let me know your feedback. I would not say this recipe can be made at the blink of an eye. It takes time and needs your effort, but it is totally worth. You can store it in refrigerator for 3-4 days. Just reheat for less than a minute and you can dig into the flavourful Halwa!! 

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Ingredients:

  • Besan (Gram Flour) - 1 cup
  • Jaggery - 1 cup
  • Ghee - 1/2 cup
  • Water - 2 cups
  • Almonds (chopped) - 1 tbsp
  • Cashew nuts (chopped) - 1 tbsp
  • Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp

Procedure:

  • To a vessel, add water and jaggery and boil until the jaggery dissolves
  • Add a tablespoon of ghee to a thick bottomed vessel and heat it 
  • Once the ghee is hot, roast chopped almonds and cashews and set them aside
  • Add the remaining ghee too and once it is hot, reduce the flame to low, add the gram flour and start roasting
  • Initially the flour completes melts in the ghee and acquires a liquid consistency 
  • Slowly as we stir, the flour absorbs all the ghee and thickens
  • Continue stirring. The mixture will starts to release ghee once it is well roasted
  • The flour will also attain a nice golden colour and your kitchen will be filled with the wonderful nutty aroma of the roasted gram flour
  • Now, add the jaggery water while it is still hot (strain to remove impurities) to the gram flour in 2 - 3 batches and stir well until there are no lumps
  • Continue to cook the mixture till it releases ghee and the halwa separates from the vessel
  • At this juncture, add cardamom powder, roasted nuts and mix well
  • Besan halwa is ready to be served

 Tips:

  • Ensure to roast the flour in low flame, otherwise it will get burnt
  • Do not add jaggery before the flour is completely roasted. The indication that the flour is well roasted is its colour (light golden brown) and the aroma
  • Do not over roast too. It will spoil the taste
  • Another variation is to add boiled milk in batches to the roasted gram flour or khoa (sweetened thick condensed milk). This brings in more flavour and richness to the dish. 
  • To give grainy texture to the halwa, you can add 2 tbsp of Rava (Semolina) to the gram flour while you roast

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