Thursday, October 01, 2015

Anjeer Halwa / Fig pudding

Festivals have a way of energizing people, infusing them with the sense of exuberance, joy and excitement. I suspect this is true worldwide. I experienced this myself when I was growing up in India. The anticipation of an upcoming festival would drive my mom and all the neighboring ladies into a cleaning and cooking spree. Preparations would start days before the actual day of the festival and everybody in the vicinity (read my dad, my brother and I) would be roped in to help! Since we were always ready to gobble the delicacies, we would always help.
One of the major festivals celebrated in India is Ganesh Chaturthi. This is a festival that was instituted as a publicly celebrated festival in the city of Pune since the time of Shivaji Maharaj and the Peshwas. Although the fall of the Peshwa regime saw the decline of the celebrations on a public scale, it was revived again by Indian freedom fighter, Lokamanya Tilak and continues to this day.
But, I digress. The impending arrival of the elephant headed God sprinkled magic over homes grand and humble. Schools had holidays, office goers got a day off and entire families and communities could celebrate this festival in togetherness and harmony if they so wished!
I miss that excitement and fervor in the States. People obviously celebrate, mingle and whip up delicacies at home. But schedules dont match, working moms have a tough time trying to adhere to customs and their other responsibilities. But all was not lost this year, despite having to work on the day of the festival and having to attend a meeting at my son's school. Although I couldnt make the usual sweets and treats that I try to make every year, I couldnt let the festival pass without even a token offering to the God of knowledge and wisdom.
I made panchakajjaya, which is very easy to prepare and which I usually make.
I also tried a new sweet this year, since it seemed as if I had all the required ingredients. I had seen a recipe for Anjeer Halwa (Fig pudding) in a Tarla Dalal newsletter and that was what was offered.


15 - 18 dried figs
3 Tbsp ghee
1/4 C almonds - blanched, peeled and crushed into a coarse powder
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp milk powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

1. Boil enough water and soak the dried figs in the water for at least 2 hours or until softened.
2. Once softened and cooled, drain the figs and pulse in a food processor with a little of the soaking water.
3. Reserve a teaspoon of the ghee and heat the remaining in a thick bottomed pan.
4. Add the powdered almonds and cook on medium flame. I only had raw almonds and thats what I used.
5. Add the pureed figs, milk powder and sugar along with a quarter cup of water.
6. Cook on a medium flame for at least 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
7. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Take off the flame when the mixture thickens slightly.
8. Garnish with slivered almonds or cashews roasted in ghee and serve hot or cooled.

While I really liked the complex flavors of the figs, my family members were not as enthusiastic! They accepted the token teaspoon of 'prasad', but didnt ask for it again. The kids felt it was too crunchy (from the fig seeds). Oh, well! Hopefully at least the Lord was appeased!
* Figs are a good source of dietary fiber and minerals such as iron, potassium and magnesium. So its definitely worth having in the kitchen for a healthy diet.
** I apologize for the not quite good quality of the picture, it was late, the family was looking forward to dinner and I didnt have a lot of leeway to stage a photo!