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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lauki ka Halwa ( Doodhi ka Halwa )

As a kid I used to wonder aloud about the the perceptible change in the atmosphere during the Puja (Dusshera) season. The slight nip in the air was accompanied with a divine fragrance as if someone had made it a daily ritual of emptying a lot may bottles of perfume all around us during the evenings. Even the nights grew more and more silent. My grandmother who was adept at spinning tales would explain that it was the harbinger of the arrival of Maa and other gods. And she would further support her theory with the argument that the gods and goddesses who were adorned with the heavenly blossoms were the ones responsible for the aura. For years I believed her before reasoning got the better of me and I could attribute the aura to a combination of factors like the cooling of the atmosphere, the steadily dropping humidity levels and the blossoming of a variety of winter blooms. Even the cacophony of the insects which peaked during the monsoons, was slowing fading away as the approaching winter forced most of them into hibernation.

Ever since I moved out of my native, I really miss the Dusshera festivities and also the run-up to the actual event. The shopping for new clothes, watching the idols shaping up, the Pandals being put into place and drawing up the itinerary to cover the maximum number of pandals during those five days would sometimes be even more fun than the actual Pandal hopping. And ofcourse, there was the mandatory 'mela' (fair) and the au rigueur joy-rides which was on every kid's bucket list. At times, growing up is no fun.

Unlike some other parts of India, people in Odisha do not keep as nine day partial fast during Durga Puja. There is the mandatory Ashtami Vrat and some also keep the Navami Vrat but no more. Onion and garlic are prohibited on these two days and people usually prefer to consume Khichdi/ rice and dalma/ puri-alu dum etc apart from fruits. But for people who follow the 'navratri fasting' quite rigorously, it is nine days of subsisting on 'phalahar' or a plant based diet. There are a number of dishes which are religiously prepared during this period. One of them happens to be the 'lauki ka halwa' or bottlegourd halwa. Read on for the recipe -

(For more Navaratri recipes, click HERE)






















Preparation Time - 30-35 mins (less if you use a food processor to grate the lauki)

Ingredients -

500 gm lauki/bottle gourd
2 cup milk
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup milk powder
3-4 tsp sugar
2 green cardamoms (powdered)
a few strands of saffron
1 1/2 tsp ghee
7-8 cashews
12-15 raisins

Preparation - Peel the gourd and chop into big pieces. Grate coarsely leaving aside the center portion containing the seeds.

Cooking - Heat the ghee in a wok. Add the raisins and cashews. Fry for 30-40 seconds before removing from wok.

Add the grated bottle gourd to the wok. Fry on medium high till much of the water evaporates and it starts to turn light brown.

Add the milk and bring it to a boil. Cover with a lid. Allow it to cook on low flame for 6-7 minutes. The bottle gourd would be cooked by this time. If not, cover it again for 3-4 mins.

Finally add sugar, milk powder, condensed milk, cardamom powder and saffron strands. Cook till most of the water evaporates. Add the fried cashews and raisins.

Serve at room temperature or even chilled.



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