Eid is the time of year to go all out. Eat, drink, and be merry. Every household has their own traditions and must-have items on the dining table. When it comes to dessert, savaiyaan are a standard in most homes, and my grandmother always used to make a dessert by cooking dried dates in milk for hours (doodh chhua’ara).
I don't think I need to tell anybody how to make traditional Eid fare. So I thought it might be interesting to add a fun summery twist to classic sooji halwa, and to create a recipe inspired by popular Ramzan and Eid dishes in other Muslim countries.
I’m sure you didn't get to eat as many mangoes as you would have liked during Ramzan and in the spirit of consuming mangoes any which way you can, I highly recommend giving this Mango Halwa a try. Sure, it may sound unusual, but let’s face it, it’s way less suspicious than anday ka halva and loki ki kheer. Forgive me if I have offended anybody who enjoys these dishes, but anday ka halva is just not something I can get behind (though that might have something to do with the fact that I was tricked into eating it the first, and last time, I ever did try it).
This halwa basically involves adding mango puree to a classic sooji halwa. I enlisted my grandmother’s help to learn the basics and then tweaked the recipe until I got it just right. I know every family, mom, nani, dadi has their own take on how to make sooji halwa. So by all means, take your family recipe and give it a mango-flavored twist if you like. If not, here’s my recipe.
4 tablespoons ghee
3 cardamom pods
½ cup sooji (semolina)
2 cups water
1 cup milk
1¼ cups mango puree (2 to 3 Chaunsa mangoes)
½ cup sugar
In a large cooking pan, heat the ghee.
Add the cardamom pods and fry until fragrant.
Add the sooji and fry on low heat until it turns light golden brown.
While the sooji cooks, add the water, milk, and sugar in another saucepan and heat on medium-low until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is just bubbling at the edges.
When the suji has browned, add the hot water-milk-sugar mixture while stirring constantly.
Continue to cook the halwa on medium heat until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
Add the mango puree and continue to cook until you have a soft halwa consistency. The halwa is done when you see the oil separate from the halwa.
Serve warm or cold, garnished with nuts.
Tahini and Date Cookies
As I was thinking about recipes for this article, while researching and looking for inspiration I read up on what people in other Muslim countries eat and cook during Ramzan and Eid. I came across many Middle Eastern recipes for shortbread-like cookies and date-filled pastries, and this recipe is inspired by them.
These dense cookies are somewhat a cross between shortbread and naan khatai, with a wonderful sesame flavour and are not too sweet on their own so the date filling complements them perfectly. However, you can make them without the date filling as well, if you like. They are very simple to make and will make a lovely addition to the tea trolley, as well a great gift to take along with you when visiting friends and family.
¼ cup (60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup (65g) tahini
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
1 cup (135g) plain flour
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
½ cup chopped dates
½ cup water
Preheat the oven to 350℉ (180℃).
In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, tahini, and sugar, and beat well until well combined.
Add the flour and mix with a spatual or large metal spoon. As the dough starts to clump, add the milk, a tablespoon at a time, and keep mixing until you have a stiff dough.
Take 1 tablespoon portions of the dough, shape into round balls and roll in the sesame seeds, if you’re using them.
Place each cookie dough ball on a greased baking tray, place your thumb on it and press down gently to create a hollow centre. (The dough may crack around the edges; that’s fine.)
If you do not want to use the date filling, flatten the cookie dough balls with the back of a fork and bake as instructed.
Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned.
Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, to make the date filling: Add the dates and water to a small saucepan and cook on medium-low heat. Mash the dates with a fork while they cook and keep stirring the mixture so that it doesn't burn. When most of the water has evaporated and you have a jam-like consistency, remove the mixture from the stove and allow to cool.
When the cookies and date filling have cooled, fill the hollow centres of each cookies with the date filling.
Decorate with nuts or more sesame seeds to serve.