A Good Nut - Almond/Badam Halva
I don't have to extol the virtues of Almond. Everyone knows that almonds are a virtual powerhouse of nutrients. They are high in mono-unsaturated fats which are associated with reduced risk of heart disease. They are believed to lower LDL cholesterol levels and promote cardiovascular health. Almonds are loaded with protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They are also rich in antioxidants and high in Vitamin E, both of which may help slow down the harmful effects of aging.
In fact, when you eat a few almonds everyday, you are actually popping a couple of vitamin pills. Well, not quite, but you know what I mean!
Here is an old family favorite recipe for Badam Halva. Halva is a rich comforting dessert, popular in a lot of cultures around the globe. It can be made with a variety of ingredients: carrots, semolina/suji, nuts etc and sometimes contains milk or condensed milk and more often than not - Ghee.
Indian halvas are characteristically loaded with ghee, and when gently warmed before eating, simply glisten with the sheen of the ghee. That warm, caramel'ey, rich melt-in-the-mouth ,feeling makes halva a comfort food like no other, making this an appropriate, albeit somewhat late, entry to Cooking Medley's JFI : Ghee and also to VKN's VCC Q3 Festival Foods.
This recipe is from my grandmother. I have made it many many times with a lot of success. You simply cannot go wrong with this recipe. If you happen to undercook it and the mixture seems a bit runny and unwilling to "set", microwave or heat it up a bit more. That will do the job. If the mixture is overcooked and becomes crumbly, add a couple of drops of milk and mix together to get a lovely, grainy halwa. Like I said, you simply cannot mess this up. It is that easy!
So here it is, badam halwa - packed with the goodness of Almonds, milk, sugar and ghee. If you have to eat sugar, why not do it in a dessert that is actually not bad for you?
Note: Even though halvas as usually served in a bowl and have to be eaten with a spoon, I like to make little bite sized balls and mound them on a platter. Whenever I pass by this tray laden with deliciousness, I virtuously break a ball in half and pop it in my mouth. A few minutes later, I come by again and finish the other half. Some time later again, another half finds its way into my mouth! Somehow I feel less guilty about my indulgence if I eat half a sweet at a time!! Does anyone else do this?
1 cup whole almonds
1.5 cups of sugar (approx. See Method below)
2 tbsp of milk
3 tbsp of ghee (or more if you want a richer halva)
2 cups + 1/2 cup of water
a few drops of orange food coloring (optional)
cardamom powder (optional)
- Boil 2 cups of water and soak the almonds for 1 hour. Alternatively, you can heat the almonds and water till the water comes to a boil and then let it cool.
- Peel the skin off the almonds. They should just slip right out the skins when you press on them with your thumb and forefinger. This is a great job for the kids but can also lead to an impromptu game of "who can pop the almonds the farthest?", so be warned!.
- Finely grind the almonds added very little milk (about 2 tbsp). You can add a little bit more, if the blender blades absolutely refuse to move.
- Measure this almond paste. For 1 cup of paste, add 1.5 cups of sugar (you can reduce the amount of sugar if you'd like a less sweeter dish)
- Melt the sugar with the 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan.
- Let this sugar syrup come to a rolling boil.
- Add the ground almond paste and stir well to avoid any lumps.
- Keep stirring this mixture so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add a few tsps of the ghee at regular intervals. The ghee will immediately get incorporated in the mixture.
- Keep stirring and cooking till the mixture gets slightly thick.
- Add the food coloring (if using)
- The mixture will become slightly translucent and shiny. You are looking for a jam like consistency here. The consistency is somewhat like thick idli/pancake batter.
- Add the cardamom powder if you wish. My family prefers the taste of the halva without it, so I leave it out.
- Switch of the heat and let the halva cool. The halva will solidify a lot after cooling. If you live in a really warm place, the mixture may not solidify enough. In that case, simply pop it in the fridge for a few minutes to set.
- Roll into small balls (the heat from your hands as you roll it, will give a glossy look to the halva) or serve in a cup.