Sweetmeats in Nippy Weather

 Update as of 30 October 2009

As October slips into November, the days start getting shorter and the nights nippier. The crisp morning breeze at times coaxes one to go out jogging, but most often forces you to clutch your blanket and curl up for ten more winks or more. This is also the season when the urge to get back to some sweet treats beckons, despite Id or Diwali being well past; this is nature’s way of ensuring that the body has enough energy to keep warm and also store extra sugars for a really cold day! So mothers look out for that plump bottle gourd, which is tender (tested by poking a fingernail into the smooth green skin) and yet large enough to yield the much needed mass for the halwa (Indian sticky sweetmeat – sometimes made of ground cereal or grated veggies). In some parts of South India, where ash gourd grow on vines along compound walls, uncared and untended, women gather these instead of the bottle versions and grate them for the halwa. The resulting sweetmeat is then adorned with dry-fruits like cashews and raisins and flavoured with cardamom powder. But some families make these more attractive by adding food colour – mostly green, but there are some who try to fool the eater by adding a saffron colour – giving the “urchin” vegetable a prized position. The cooler it gets, the darker are the colours of the other most favoured vegetable for halwa – the Indian Carrot. This, unlike its English cousin, is a deep crimson, longer in shape and needs a really good scrub before the scrape. The root hairs grow profusely on these and since river beds are often used to grow them in, the moist carrots attract a lot more sand than their “foreign” and orange counterpart. These sweetmeats, if cooked well, can store for over a fortnight without refrigeration, but that is only if they are not tasty. Any tasty Halwa will usually not last for more than the day it is made; especially when the eaters are Indian!

The D Boyz were relaxing today on D Street as some good news about economic revival in the west trickled in, and the cool October breeze wafted into their offices. The October devils had already been exorcised last night – what with a 4.5% drop in SENSEX thus far. So they inhaled the crisp morning breeze and saw the morning shoppers buying their market baskets full of various gourds – bottles, ash. The thought of some green goodies going forward gave them the comfort to relax and keep the SENSEX in the green – between 150 -280 points up. But as the afternoon truckload of veggies hit the market, the Boyz were surprised to see that the shoppers aimed for the desi (Indian) carrots. The vendors were doing brisk business selling the red root and the weight of the shopping bags sagged the Boyz’ shoulders, as they smacked their lips and could only dream of the divine red sweetmeat – they even contemplated taking home about 200 kgs of these (by dropping the SENSEX 200 points down), but settled at about 153 points down. After the busy and red session at work this week (when the SENSEX fell 5.5%), they now look forward to some good sweetmeats at home for dessert. At the end of the month – they moved from the heady 17000 points to end below 16000 at 15896.

I have tried the above veggie halwas, as well as those made of beetroot and potatoes. But the one that I really relished, but only tasted once was made of white coconut milk; yumm! Share your experiences of halwas – cooking, buying, eating, or any other stories by just simply clicking here – HALWA.

Have a nice weekend – some of us in Mumbai and Delhi have an extra day of it!!




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