Anyone who has been to a Hare Krishna temple for the Sunday Feast is certainly familiar with this tasty, fragrant Indian sweet. Let’s not confuse it with Middle Eastern halvah, which is also super tasty, but is rather different taste and texture. Indian halva is traditionally made with ghee or butter — however we can make a delicious vegan halva with good margarine. Oil works too, but it lacks the richer flavor. I love to round out a nice Indian thali with this treat served in a little metal bowl, like in the photo above.
In my travels in India I’ve come across some really amazing halva. It’s more often found at temples as prasadam (a blessed offering) shared for free with guests than at restaurants, but the delicious dessert makes appearances at wedding feasts, birthday parties, dinner banquets, and all kinds of holidays and festivals. One thing I absolutely learned from my Indian friends is that any day is a reason to celebrate if you put passion into your cooking and share the joy. Yeah, remember that when you’re scrubbing all those pots and pans after the feast.
serves 4 / time: 30 min.
2/3 cup fine semolina
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
3 Tbs cashew pieces or almond pieces
1/4 unsalted margarine or oil*
1 1/2 cups water
4 green cardamon pods (or 1/2 tspn cardamon seeds)
1/2 tspn nutmeg ground
1/2 tspn cinnamon ground (or 1-2 cinnamon sticks)
1 tspn ginger finely diced
3-4 saffron threads OPTIONAL
1 tspn orange zest or lemon zest
- Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in a small pot.
- Add cardamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron, and zest to the boiling water and boil on low for 7 min.
- Heat a large sauce pan on medium low with margarine or oil and slowly add semolina. Mix thoroughly and turn with a spatula or wooden spoon, toast lightly, stirring constantly for 7-10 minutes until grains absorb oil and turn golden brown.
- While stirring the grains, pour spice water slowly through a strainer into the saucepan with semolina mixture. Reduce heat to low and add 1/2 cup of sugar, raisins, and cashews. Mix well.
- Stir constantly, cook uncovered until all liquid is absorbed and the texture becomes fluffy, about 7-10 min.
- Turn off heat and cover for 5 min before serving.
Berry Halva: Use 1/2 cup fresh or frozen (thawed!) blueberries, raspberries, or sliced strawberries, or dried cranberries instead of raisins. Berries lend the halva a wonderful color and fruity taste. For these variations the saffron and zest can be omitted. Carrot Halva: add 1/4 cup grated carrot and 1/4 cup walnut pieces instead of raisins and cashews. The Krishnas make all kinds of variations including carob chip and peanut butter. Go wild, have fun, and be sure to share!
* Coconut oil is a great choice for the flavor.