My love affair with dried fruits and nuts started when I tasted the dried fruit and nut milk-shake at a restaurant (which I vaguely remember was called Mac) on MG Road in Bangalore. This shake was fit enough to be a meal both in taste and satiation. I remember drooling over this shake and although I have had this shake several times after that at many different places (including chez moi) none measured up to the lofty standard set by the original one. Anyway, I digressed and this post, although is about dried fruits and nuts, is definitely not about shakes but about halwas – the ubiquitous dessert found in almost all cultures and cuisines. Of course, in India, we make halwa with everything ranging from moong dhal to wheat to carrot/potato to pumpkin – looks like we are capable of turning everything to a halwa. “When in doubt, turn it to a halwa” should be a national tagline!
The base template for all halwas is the same – basically, throw in the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed vessel, cook it over low-medium flame for about 30-45 minutes and slowly, in front of your eyes, what was a sticky-icky blob turn will turn into a still lumpy ball that importantly, moves easily when guided with the spoon leaving the sides of the vessel.
The template will have to be tweaked a little bit based on the kind of halwa at hand. For this one,
Start with about 20 pieces of figs and dates soaked over-night in a cup of warm milk. Blend it into a find paste with the milk that was used for soaking.
Add this to a thick-bottomed vessel (I used the cast-iron pot from here) and cook it in a low to medium flame with a tsp of butter.
While the mixture is cooking, coat a clean plate with a tsp of butter and keep it aside.
After about 30-40 minutes of slow cooking, during which time it needs very little attention except for the occasional stir to make sure the mixture cooks evenly, add the chopped nuts and cook for a couple of more minutes making sure the nuts are mixed and incorporated well.
Turn the stove off and transfer the mixture to the butter-coated plate.
Let sit for a few minutes and then cut it in diamond-shaped pieces.
The dried fruit halwa was inspired by Soma’s version here, after I drooled many days over those pictures.