This recipe has been featured in the Glamour: Health & Fitness- Afternoon Snack!
Happy Deepavali !
Deepavali/Diwali is a Festival of Lights. It is a time of celebration, joy, holidays and sharing. Deepavali/Diwali is one of the most important religious and cultural festivals in India bringing family and friends together. In different states of India, the significance of the celebration travels back to different history and legends; but whatever be the history, the reason of the festival is finally the victory of good over evil;
The word Deepavali translates into “rows of light”; the lights that illuminate our hearts and homes, the lights that shun evils and gives us the power to do good deeds, to find hope and reason and prosperity and finally the light within each of us for the awakening of the soul deep within oneself – a way to a higher reality. It is considered to be a new beginning, and hope in many ways. Many financial/business calendars begin on this day.
During Diwali, millions of lights illuminate every corner of India. Homes and streets are decorated with deep/diyas (little clay tealights) and the air is filled with festivities, rising fragrance if the incense sticks, the sounds of fire-crackers, happiness, laughter, love and sharing and of course food.
Traditionally days are spent cleaning up homes, buying new clothes and gifts and making snacks and sweets to share with family and friends. The kind of food depends from one home to another in different regions of India. My favorite part of this festival would be lighting up my entire home with diyas and candles. Having no siblings, I had taken this entire responsibility on myself to put the diyas all over our home, terrace and veranda to make it glow through the evening. I loved it when they started to burn, to see the little twirls of smoke rise up and that religious aura that it contributed to the atmosphere. Enjoying the fire crackers with my cousins was another beautiful part, and being all girls we steadily stayed away from all the noisy ones.
With the spirit of the season, here we are wishing you all the prosperity, warmth and happiness that life can offer. Keep the light inside you glowing always and illuminate everyone else around you… Happy Diwali to all of you!
Anjeer/Fig halwa had never been done in our homes during Deepavali. This is something I had been craving for a long time and had been planning to make at home. This is one of the easiest traditional recipes to make and a healthy one too. No sugar is needed as the dried figs are naturally sweet and the halwa requires way less ghee than any other dessert.
My daughter calls it a Fig Brownie; a well justified name!
Note: I have used 2 cups of milk here only because I anticipated trouble pureeing the dry figs. If you can manage to puree/make a paste with the figs with less milk and without burning your machine, use less milk. The more milk you use, the longer it will take to cook or reduce the figs.
Sugar is usually not required as fig is naturally very sweet. I did use some as the sugar helps the halwa get sticky and of the right consistency.
You can use any kind and any combination of nuts and more nuts than I have used here.
For a vegan option, use almond milk or just water instead of milk and butter substitute for ghee.
Khoya/Mawa or thickened milk may be used to make this halwa, but we like ours without it. If you would want a rich halwa use about 1/2 cup of Khoya and cook along with the fig paste.
Ingredients: (makes about 20 squares, each approx. 1″x 1″ x 1/2″)
- 2 cups packed figs – I used the Organic Mission Figs, (about 40 soft dried figs)
- 2 cups milk, warmed (may be substituted with almond milk, or even water)
- 1/2 cup almond, powdered
- 1/4 cup almond, lightly toasted + chopped
- 1/3 cup unsalted cashew, lightly toasted + chopped
- 1/4 cup walnut, lightly toasted + chopped
- 1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted + chopped
- 2 tablespoons ghee/clarified butter + 1 tablespoon ghee
- 8 small green cardamoms, shelled and the seeds ground in fine powder
- a good pinch of good quality saffron strands
- 2 tablespoon sugar, (or only if you need)
Soak the figs and the saffron in the warm milk (I heated the milk for about 2 minutes in the microwave) for at least half an hour.
Make the cardamom powder and set aside. Toast the nuts very lightly, cool and chop them into small pieces if required and set them aside.
Make a paste with the milk and the anjeer/figs.
In a large thick bottomed pan (nonstick pan or my favorite cast iron) add 2 tablespoons ghee and the anjeer/fig paste, cardamon powder and the almond powder and cook at low to medium heat until it thickens and changes color to a darker shade of brown, for about 35-45 minutes. You will need to stir it occasionally and scrape the bottom and the sides of the pan to prevent sticking.
At the end of 35 – 40 minutes you will see the quantity of the mixture has reduced. It will be sticky and the entire mass will leave the sides and the bottom of the pan and kind of accumulate as a lump/ball when move around with spoon. If the paste has reached this stage, switch off the heat. Add the the toasted nuts,(leaving a few spoonfuls aside to garnish on the top) and the tablespoon of ghee to the pan and stir well together for the nuts and the fig paste to combine. Let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile lightly grease a plate with ghee. Spread out the mixture onto the greased dish, with medium thickness (about 1/2 inch). Flatten and even out the top and garnish with the saved toasted nuts.
Set it aside for about half an hour or until it cools down.
Cut small squares and serve.
These little squares could as well work as a quick to go power bars/breakfast bars.