Diwali's the time of year to go a little bit over the top, particularly with food. It is time when every Indian kitchen is overrun-- but never overwhelmed-- with sweets and savory snacks of every shape, taste and hue.
This year's Diwali dawned on me pretty suddenly, as it seems to do each year, actually. Since I'm no genius in the planning-ahead department, it was only yesterday that I woke up to the fact that I needed to get at least one really special sweet ready in time for the big day.
I pondered making laddoos, which I love and which are a true Diwali staple, but Desi is not crazy about them. So to make our Diwali sweet something we'd both really, really want to eat-- and share-- I decided on Badam Halwa, or Almond Halwa.
Badam Halwa is a rich, luscious treat that lends itself perfectly to very special occasions....like Diwali. But like the best dishes, it is also quite foolproof and requires just five ingredients (besides the garnish). Be warned that if you're not patient and balk from some heavy-duty stirring over a hot stove for nearly an hour, this is not the sweet for you.
Lots of cooks take tons of time blanching the almonds and peeling them, but I prefer to use whole almonds, skin and all, because the skins are full of flavor and aren't they good for you? Besides why do more work when you can do less?
Traditionally Badam Halwa would include a ton of milk and a ton of ghee. I used Earth Balance vegan butter and soymilk, although any non-dairy milk would do here.
Be careful to cook the almonds thoroughly, all the way up until the fat starts to separate. You want to be absolutely, positively sure that the almond paste has cooked because raw-almond halwa is just not going to taste as good. Also, be sure not to leave your skillet unattended and unstirred at any time because you do not want the almond paste to stick to the bottom of the skillet and burn even a little. Trust me, it would ruin your dish beyond repair.
Here's the recipe, all. And a very heartfelt, very Happy Diwali to all my readers. May the new year be a wonderful one for all of you and for all those critters-- furry, winged, multi-legged and slithery-- we share our world with.
3 cups almonds
2-3 cups of non-dairy milk (I used vanilla soy milk, which I love in sweet dishes)
4 tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter
3 cups of sugar
1 tsp cardamom powder
For the garnish:
2-3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2-3 tbsp golden raisins
1 tsp canola oil
Place the almonds in a blender (if your blender isn't a powerful one, like my Vitamix, soak your almonds in water for a couple of hours first to soften them)
Cover the almonds in the blender with enough soymilk to cover them by at least half an inch.
Blend until you have a pancake-like batter. You want the almond paste to be slightly grainy, but without any big pieces.
Melt half the vegan butter in a skillet, preferably a really well-seasoned cast-iron or non-stick one.
Pour the almond paste into the skillet.
Add the sugar
Over medium-low heat, stir the paste constantly with a ladle to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.
When the paste loses a good deal of its moisture and expresses the fat, turn off the heat. Stir in the cardamom powder.
Pour into a plate or a serving dish.
To garnish, heat the canola oil in a small saucepan.
Add the pumpkin seeds and raisins and stir until they just start to change color.
Pour over the halwa.
For my presentation, I used an ice-cream scoop to scoop out the halwa into cute little cupcake liners. This is a sticky halwa, and putting it into the liners is also a good way to devour it without getting your hands messy and without fussing around with a spoon.
This recipe makes a ton of almond halwa but trust me, you might be tempted to finish it at one sitting. :)
The halwa goes out to Lavi of Home Cook's Recipes for her Diwali Sweets and Snacks event which she has extended until Nov. 15. Thanks, dear Lavi!
Craving more Indian vegan sweets for Diwali? Check out these staples for this time of year:
Chavde, or Mande