Ashoka Halwa /Moong Dal Halwa
A luscious and soul-satisfying South-Indian dessert made up of yellow moong dal/lentils, sugar and ghee and finished off with a garnish of toasted cashews and raisins
Halwa: A common moniker for a sweet-dish made by stewing pulses, nuts, vegetables or a combination thereof in sugar, ghee and/or milk.
Depending on the core ingredient, a prefix is attached to Halwa indicating what kind and level of sweet sensations await the eater. Popular halwas include Sooji Halwa (semolina), Badam Halwa (almonds), Carrot Halwa, Aata Halwa (wheat flour), Kashi Halwa (White pumpkin) or the raison de vivre for my post today – Ashoka Halwa (Yellow Moong Dal)
What a princely name for a sweet-dish made from such humble ingredients (Moong Dal, Sugar and Ghee), I remember thinking, when I first got to the bottom of this dish (quite literally, haha!). However, that thought vanished as soon as I took a bite and was assaulted by it’s nutty flavor and luscious texture, all punctuated by the crunchy and meaty textures of the ghee-roasted cashew-raisin garnish. This dish may or may not have been named for Emperor Ashoka, one of the greatest rulers of India, but it’s definitely befitting a king!
Cook and see for yourself!
P.S. This dish to me tastes a lot like badam halwa and so I’ve added some almond puree to nudge it further in that direction. But you could totally omit it and it’d still taste just as amazing!
This recipe makes 2 cups of Halwa
- Almonds – 1/8 cup
- Yellow Moong dal – 1/2 cup
- Sugar – 3/4 cup
- Ghee – 2 tsps + 6 tbsps
- Milk – 1/8 cup
- Saffron – 10 strands or so
- Cashewnut ( chopped) – 1.5 tbsps
- Raisin – 1.5 tbsps
- Powdered cardomom – 1/4 tsp
- Soak almonds for 30 mins. Remove skin. Grind to a fine puree with little water. Keep aside
- Wash and soak the lentils for 15 mins. Strain water. Let sit for another 15 mins in the strainer.
- Heat 2 tsps of ghee in a heavy-bottomed vessel such as a pressure cooker. Add the moong dal and toast on medium-low heat. Roast until the lentils emanate a deep nutty aroma and the color of the lentils has turned a couple of shades darker
- Add 2 cups of water to the toasted dal and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles until it turns mushy. Mash it into a smooth paste using a blender or a whisk
- Warm the milk. Sprinkle saffron strands. Let soak.
- Heat all but 2 tsps of the remaining ghee in the same pressure cooker or vessel. Pour the lentil puree and the almond puree and cook on medium-low heat until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. About 15 mins.
- Add the sugar. At this stage, the mixture would loosen up again. Cook further until such time the halwa holds it’s shape and falls lazily back into the pan when you lift and fold. Turn off the heat.
- Add the saffron milk and give it a good mix.
- Garnish with cardamom, cashew nuts and raisins toasted in the remaining 2 tsps of ghee. Take a bite and be amazed!
- Ensure that the water is competely drained before toasting the dal. A wet moong dal will only take longer to toast and brown
- Almond puree is optional. The original dish only calls for yellow moong dal, sugar and ghee
- If the dal sticks to the pan while cooking , add a little more ghee to get it moving
- Many people add orange food coloring to the halwa. If you’d like to do so, add the color to the milk along with the saffron
- The halwa will thicken as it sits. And so don’t cook it until it’s set fully. Turn off the heat when the halwa’s in a semi-solid state.