Apple Walnut Halwa – a dessert-in-a hurry!
When monsoon humidity lifts and the air becomes crisp, the first thing I begin to crave for is some comfort food. Don’t you? Apple Walnut Halwa is my go-to-Autumn dessert. Now halwas are usually considered time consuming, laborious preparations and too rich in calories to be sought out on regular basis when one wants to satisfy sweet cravings in a hurry, right?! But not this Apple Walnut Halwa. Why? We’ll come to that in a while. First, the story of halwa – a centuries old comfort food.
Halwa – the journey from a rustic to royal indulgence:
The Arabic word “halwa” means ‘sweet confection’ and some historians place its origin in Byzantium, in the 12th century. The original version of halwa was a gelatinous pudding of flour, oil and sugar. Gradually the popularity of this Moorish dessert spread across the entire Middle East, the Mediterranean, Central Asia and South Asia. But perhaps no one in the culinary history of this world was a bigger fan than Suleiman the Magnificent, the powerful sultan in the Ottoman Empire, who built a special kitchen, called helvahane or house of halva, where more than two dozen varieties of the dessert were created.
All the Tempting Variations:
Each new place added it’s own touch to the sweet dish. Wheat flour was replaced by other grains, even by all sorts of vegetables and fruits, like carrots, pumpkins, dates, coconut, lentils and nuts. No matter what the main ingredients, halwa remains a rich, hearty and long lasting food, with its high levels of fat and carbohydrates, it’s considered more suitable for special occasions or as a source of energy for the winter season.
How To Make It Less Guilty:
Well, this particular Apple and Walnut Halwa is as comforting and hearty as any of its calorie rich counterparts but, keeping in mind our low activity life styles, I’ve tried to reduce the sugar and oil in it to the minimum levels possible. Apples are such deliciously sweet in themselves that they don’t require too much added sugar to pick up the flavours in the dish. And addition of walnuts makes the dish naturally very sumptuous. Just a touch of cinnamon, cardamom and very little brown sugar or jaggery makes the dish sweet enough to satisfy my craving.
One Special Tip:
Instead of adding the oil in the beginning for frying apples, I add oil right at the end to give colour and a Halwa-like-glossiness to my Apple Walnut Halwa. This way the dish does not soak up too much oil and gets the desired taste and look ….aaaand I get something that stops my sweet tooth from nagging me without overburdening my conscience.
1 cup walnuts + a few more for garnishing
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon green cardamom powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar or jaggery (gur)
2 tablespoons olive oil
This Is What You Do:
Add milk, cinnamon, cardamom and apples to a saucepan or wok. Cook covered over medium low heat till apples are really soft and milk mostly reduced.
Add sugar, allow it to melt and keep cooking uncovered another 4-5 minutes or till all the liquid evaporates and the halwa begins to turn brownish.
Coarsely crush 1 cup walnuts. Add walnuts and oil to halwa. Keep stirring frequently to avoid the mixture from getting burnt.
The ready halwa doesn’t stick to the pan anymore and the oil separates and can be seen on the edges.
Serve warm, garnished with walnut halves.