When I asked my friend Sakshi for one of her favourite Indian recipes, she sent me this recipe for Moong Dal Halwa from Dassana Amit. The link has the original recipe, and this is my slight adaptation. I love Indian food including curries, but I am much less familiar with how to make the sweets and desserts. This was my first attempt and I am happy with the rich, buttery and sweet (but not too sweet) flavours. In fact, it reminds me a lot of rice pudding in its consistency and with the dried fruits and nuts dotted throughout the mixture.
I have revised the instructions to make them simpler. This includes slightly crushing rather than grinding the cardamom pods. In addition, I added more pistachios and substituted dried cherries for sultanas because I like the blend of those flavours. All of these ingredients were easy to find in London at the normal supermarket. You can feel free to improvise to your tastes! I found that the halwa tasted just as good hot, warm or cool.
The aroma and taste of the cardamom brought back great memories of drinking chai (tea) in India. The scent of spices seemed to be in the air in every city, from Delhi to Bangalore to Vishakhapatnam.
1 cup dried moong dal (spilt husked yellow mung lentils)
10 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
4 green cardamoms, slightly crushed
Handful of unsalted pistachios – sliced or chopped
Handful of dried sour cherries, chopped (or sultanas but I prefer the cherries for tartness)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
Soak the moong dal in at a large pot of water overnight.
Drain and then grind the moong dal with 1/4 cup water in a food processor, until a smooth paste forms.
Melt ghee in a non stick pan over medium heat. Add the ground moong dal paste. Stir the halwa over a medium flame. The halwa has the raw aroma of the moong lentils and it should go away completely before you start with the next step. This takes about 30 minutes.
The halwa first is pasty, then starts getting lumpy and then starts breaking down and getting separated with the fat releasing from the sides. Break the lumps while stirring.
Meanwhile, in another pan, combine milk, water and sugar. Over a medium flame, heat this mixture until it comes to a boil.
The moong dal mixture should reach a granular consistency before you add the hot milk mixture. You should get a fried buttery aroma from the mung lentils and the color should become golden. The fat also should get separated.
When the milk mixture comes to a boil, add it to the fried mung lentils. The mixture sizzles, so be careful while adding the hot milk and water mixture. Also add the slightly crushed cardamom pods.
Simmer and stir often for about 45 minutes. The liquid should be absorbed and once again you will see the ghee getting separated. Lastly add chopped pistachios and dried cherries. Serve moong dal halwa hot or at room temperature. You can also garnish with some pistachio slivers on top.
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