Do you know what one of the best parts about winter is? It’s that special fragrance that comes from generous amounts of ghee or butter. It’s the heady aroma of paratha being roasted in ghee, the sizzle of the spices when they touch the hot makkhan (homemade butter), the hiss as a rainbow of vegetables slide into the butter for a winter-special stir fry.
A mention of halva that has been painstakingly slow cooked for that perfect balance of flavours is a must. After all, winters are synonymous with halva! Gaajar ka halva, moong dal ka halva, badam halva, doodhi halva, matar halva… (types of Indian puddings made of carrots, green mung beans, almond, bottle gourd, green peas)
Amid this list of lavish desserts is the humble Guymag, a wheat and butter halva (or pudding) that is an essential part of Azerbaijan’s cuisine. Similar to the aate ka halva (whole wheat flour pudding) made in kitchens across India, Guymag is a simple, rich winter breakfast option in Azeri households.
Guymag – nutritious, tasty, easy
High in calories owing to the butter, the use of whole wheat flour rather than all-purpose flour makes Guymag a healthy option for pregnant women, elders and the young ones – especially during the winters when one needs extra strength to battle the cold.
A note for the calorie conscious – a few spoonsful of this whole wheat flour pudding is enough to last you till lunchtime.
The winning part of this Azeri recipe is the four basic ingredients required in this dish are kitchen staples. “Flour, fat, water and jaggery have been part of every kitchen since ages, as was the case with your grandmother’s. Probably why she would whip up a version of this for us when we were kids,” said Maa as she sampled the final product.
There are a few basic things that one needs to remember when cooking the Guymag. Measure out the ingredients before you begin cooking. Be careful when mixing the hot ingredients – there are chances the water may splutter and splash you.
I’ve deliberately chosen not to cook the halva with sugar – different types of sweeteners add different flavours to the halva!
I tried the Guymag in a few different ways
- With a generous dollop of jhola gud (liquid date palm jaggery)
- With a sprinkle of organic brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon powder
- A drizzle of honey and/or maple syrup
- Chopped dates and a pinch of sumac powder
The jhola gud was a clear winner with the brown sugared halva and date topping came in a close second. You could try this halva with other syrups or sweeteners.
- 50 grams Whole wheat flour
- 40 grams Unsalted butter
- 500 ml Water
- 1/8 teaspoon Sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon powder
- Organic brown sugar (optional)
- Date palm jaggery (optional)
- Seedless dates chopped (optional)
- Sumac powder (optional)
In a non-stick pan, melt the butter and add the flour. Mix well and constantly till the flour has absorbed all butter.
Add the sea salt and mix well.
On a low flame, stir the butter-flour frequently and cook till it gives off a nutty scent and is lightly brown.
Meanwhile, in the second pan, bring the water to boil.
Once the butter-flour mixture is cooked, gradually pour in the boiling water, mixing constantly to avoid lumps. The halva will look like thick brown soup at this point. Fret not!
Set the halva on a low flame and let it cook, stirring frequently to avoid lumps.
Allow the halva to simmer till it has reduced by half and you see evidence of the butter beginning to separate from the pudding.
Add 1/4th teaspoon cinnamon powder and stir well before taking it off the flame.
Divide between 3 to 4 bowls, garnish with brown sugar and cinnamon / date palm jaggery / chopped dates and sumac powder / maple syrup or honey.
- Cover the water-filled saucepan, it’ll hasten the process of bringing the water to boil.
- When roasting the flour in the butter, spread it evenly on the pan bottom. This will help roast evenly.
- Pour the boiling water into the butter-wheat mixture in three parts. This will help you stir well and ensure there are no lumps.
- Be careful when pouring water, the first time; the hot pan will cause the already hot water to boil over.