There is this expression in Urdu, "aapis mein milne se mohabbat barhti hai." Roughly translated the more you meet someone the more you care about them. I never gave this axiom much thought until we made our second trip to Chicago in 6 weeks. Minutes after getting to my aunts house my little one was sitting on the couch chatting away with a cousins teenage son. When I went up to her she said "excuse me, we are having some us time" and shooed me away.
I was amused at the time, but now I find myself thinking how wonderful it is that she is so fond of a boy that I basically did not see for well over a decade. Our recent trips to Chicago have connected the kids, and me too frankly, to a part of our family that I hadn't seen a lot of in the last few years. As a child I took certain relationships for granted, but now when my uncle jestingly (I think) scolds me or my cousin lectures me on my choice of blouse or lipstick I find it reassuring more than anything else. There is just so much love there and I think that's the best part about family, the knowledge of unconditional love. You know, unless you're a real tool or something in which case they'll forgive you faster than others anyway.
Chanay ki Daal ka Halwa has been my nemesis for many years in no small part because one of my aunts makes it exceptionally well. After trying a few recipes, I took hers and wasn't as successful as I hoped. So then I took a step back and thought about what it was that made hers special. It was her use of Khoya, a cooked down milk solid that adds creaminess without any overt sweetness.
So I went back to the drawing board and made a few changes to the standard Chanay ki Daal ka Halwa recipe. In this version I cook the chanay ki daal in milk until its absolutely tender and then cook the liquid down so I have just enough to make a blendable paste. Not draining the milk from the boiled daal really improved the texture and flavour of the halwa. It also saved me from making Khoya, my previous attempt with a store bought one was disappointing. I also increased both the ghee/butter and sugar in this recipe. Here is why: the sugar in Pakistan is far sweeter than it's Canadian counterpart. Adding sugar and more milk solids meant that I needed more fat to get the right texture hence the increase in ghee. While the pinch of saffron isn't a traditional addition I love what it does for the flavor of the Chanay ki Daal ka Halwa.
Chanay ki Daal ka Halwa
- 1 cup chana daal (soaked overnight)
- 1 litre whole milk
- 1 ¼ cup ghee (or butter, or combination)
- 3-4 whole cloves
- 3-4 whole cardamoms, slightly smashed
- ½ tsp cardamom powder
- small pinch Saffron (optional)
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- SImmer the chanay ki daal in the milk until tender, this can take a few hours.
- Cook down the milk on low flame (milk boils over fast) so it is an inch above the chanay ki daal
- Let cool then puree. If the chana daal does not have any liquid left in it it will not puree since it is naturally thick .
- Heat ghee in a non stick wok and add cloves and cardamom
- When they start to sputter add your chana daal puree.
- Stir vigorously, first you will see the ghee absorb into the daal, but the mixture will still be beige in color
- Add the cardamom powder, salt, and saffron into the halwa, keep stirring
- When the halwa gets to a caramelly color, about 15-20 minutes then add the sugar. Make sure you to stir the halwa contiuously.
- Once the sugar goes in it will thicken the halwa, but as it cooks the halwa will become more liquid-y. Keep cooking (and stirring) till it reaches the a rich caramel.
- If the mixture looks thick or chewy then add a splash of milk to loosen it then press into a plate.
- Scatter blanched sliced almonds over top and cut into pieces.
- You can also freeze the halwa for upto 3 months!