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…
Whew… It’s still five days to Diwali but in our house on the fifth floor of an apartment, we are already feeling the effects. Doors and windows have to be kept closed after 8 pm to keep out pollution created by the insane amount of firecracker bursting. Wonder what will happen by the time Diwali comes in on Wednesday?
Diwali celebrations at the Bhaumick household have taken a comparatively sedate turn in the past few years. The firecracker buying-bursting process has taken a backseat to spending time with family, friends and food. But much more exciting and fun than this hustle-bustle of meet-greet-eat, is the prepping process.
The atmosphere is filled with electric energy as people scurry to wrap up chores before diving into celebrations with full abandon. Buying earthen diyas (clay lamps), getting the right amount of colour for rangoli (I always mess this up and have to rush halfway to buy colours) or planning the mithai (sweets), there’s a lot to be done. Airing the lace covers for the sofa set and obsessing over the cleanliness of the living room to ensure a warm welcome to guests while making sure the kitchen is well stocked with mithai, thanda and namkeen (sweet meats, cold drinks and savoury snacks) is something we look forward to.
This year, I’ve convinced Maa to step away from the tried and tested gulab jamun, jalebi, kaju katli, barfi, peda. “Let’s make something exotic and different,” I declared with a flourish, having pulled out a recipe from my stash and handing it to Maa.
Spectacles perched on the nose Maa perused the recipe and smiled. “This is like the flour halva your grandmother made when we were kids. Only, she never put these flavours and syrup,” she said as I pulled out the necessary ingredients. Fascinated by yet another example of cultural exchange through trade and travel in ancient times, I (and Maa too!) was convinced that my version of the ter khalvasy would be perfect as a Diwali mithai.
The ter khalvasy is a sweet snack that features prominently in Azerbaijan’s cuisine. With a base of wheat flour, this fudgy confection that oozes with butter and flavour, can be eaten warm or cooled down, cut into small pieces and served with some Azeri chai.
The key points of the adapted ‘Rose and Cinnamon Halva’ are cooking the wheat-butter mixture properly and getting the perfect sugar syrup. Traditionally, the Azeri ter khalvasy uses either rose water or ginger powder or cinnamon powder for flavour. But after some trial and error I realised that a combination makes for richer and tastier halva. At least to my taste buds.
Do make sure that you use bigger vessels to cook the two elements of this sweet dish. And don’t worry if the amount of sugar syrup seems too much. Leftovers can be saved in a bottle and as Kamini Patel of Kitchen Therapy suggested, can be used over pancakes and toasts or to sweeten drinks.
To learn more about Azerbaijan’s cuisine, read Chai, Halva & Azeri Hospitality and A Newbie’s Guide to Azeri Cuisine #Chapter 1 / #Chapter 2. For updates on recipes follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. You could also subscribe and be a part of the mailing list.
- 250 grams Unsalted butter (softened)
- 250 grams Wheat flour
- 800 millilitre Water
- 500 grams Sugar
- 3 tablespoons Rose water
- 1½ teaspoon Cinnamon powder
- 2-3 threads Saffron (optional)
- 2 tbsp Dried rose petals (optional)
- Soak the saffron threads in a tablespoon of boiling water and set aside.
- Sieve the flour and set aside.
- Line a 9-10 inch plate or tray with baking sheet. Try to keep the sheet bigger than the plate’s diameter so that you can lift out the halva from the plate by pulling out the sheet.
- In a large pan, mix the water, sugar, rose water and 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder. Place the pan on medium flame till it comes to boil, then simmer till the syrup reduces to 600 ml or more. The syrup needs to be thick and sticky.
- As the syrup simmers, melt the butter in a thick-bottom pan.
- Add the sieved flour into the melted butter and mix well. Cook the butter and flour mixture till you get a nutty aroma.
- Once the flour mix is ready, gradually pour in 1½ cup of the boiling sugar syrup and stir for a smooth mixture. Add more (or less) sugar syrup if needed to adjust the halva as per your taste. The texture of the halva should be sludgy and fudgy.
- Now pour the halva mixture into the prepped plate and spread into a layer of not more than 1 centimetre thickness.
- Level with the back of a ladle or a small bowl. Pour the saffron syrup over the halva, garnish with dried rose petals, sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon powder over the halva and set aside to cool. You can even add some chopped dried fruits like almonds, pistachios and walnuts.
- Eat the halva warm or cut the cooled halva into small squares and serve with tea sans milk.
- Use unsalted butter to avoid the added taste of salt in halva. You can replace butter with ghee.
- To avoid lumps in your halva, start cooking the flour and butter mixture once the syrup has started boiling.
- The halva will have a fudgy in texture and easily breaks. So be careful when removing it from the plate.
- Make your own dried rose petals: Remove the petals of organic roses and wash in warm water. Place on a baking sheet and microwave on high for 3 minutes. If the petals still retain moisture, heat them in the microwave as needed or place the baking sheet under the sun to air dry.
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