As the loved up ones make plans for Valentine’s Day, several households in India will be preparing for celebrations of a different kind. On February 13/14, devotees of Lord Shiva across the world will be observing Maha Shivaratri (the Great Night of Shiva). For ardent devotees, this means staying awake through the night chanting prayers, meditating and fasting.
If there is a Shiva temple in your neighbourhood then I urge you to plan a visit to see the festivities and perhaps have some bhaang too.
There are several legends about the origin of Maha Shivaratri – an aunt of mine said it is the night Lord Shiva married Parvati, a friend said it is the night the deity created the world, another said it is the night of Lord Shiva’s tandav. And yet another said it is Lord Shiva’s birthday!
At home, the parents go to a temple and all of us fast for the day. This does not mean ‘no food, no water’. It simply means eating sattvik food. And each year, our neighbour sends over a platter of upvaas1 goodies. It is on this platter that I discovered the singhada ka halva or Indian water chestnut halva.
The best part about this halva is it can be made any time of the year, can be eaten piping hot or cut into squares to be stored. It is pretty healthy too. So when I asked our neighbour for the recipe, she sportingly stepped into the kitchen to teach and oversee the learning process.
Indian Water Chestnut Halva
Time: 15 minutes
Indian water chestnut flour (singhada/water caltrop) – 100 grams
Jaggery (or sugar) – 100 grams
Water – 2 cups
Ghee2 – 2 teaspoon
Roasted almonds/pistachios (slivered) – ½ cup
In a clean big bowl, take one cup of water and dissolve the jaggery.
Place a thick-bottomed pan on low flame, add the ghee and let it melt. Pour in the flour. Stir constantly and roast till it gives out a nutty smell.
Be careful while doing the sniff test though… I almost tumbled into the pan! Pour in the dissolved jaggery along with the remaining water and stir as if your life depends on it! This is imperative for the flour thickens quickly and can be lumpy if not whisked/stirred into submission.
Serve it piping hot, sprinkled with slivers of almonds and pistachio.
* Roasted flour has a deeper colour and adds flavour. But be careful. Too much roasting means burnt flour.
* You MUST serve the halva piping hot; this sweet dish turns lump as it becomes cold. If you plan to eat it later, then cut it into pieces. How? Keep a small greased dish handy before you start cooking. Once cooked, spread the halva on the plate, let it cool and then cut.
1 upvaas – Hindi for ‘fasting’
2 ghee – form of clarified butter
Photos: Gautam Chakravarty