A dairy-free, melt-in-the-mouth vegan, Indian-style Zucchini Halwa made with almond milk and infused with the fragrance of cardamom.
My Zucchini Halwa is a great way to use up all those summer zucchini -- or other -- squashes you no doubt still have in your vegetable garden. And if you don't have a vegetable garden, I'm willing to bet there is an abundance of them at your nearest market or supermarket.
Have you heard that story about people who, not knowing what to do with all that zucchini growing in their yards every summer, take the extra squashes, leave them on a neighbor's doorstep, knock, and run away before they'll be found? (True story from his childhood, according to a friend). Well, I'm not one of those people. This year I had five zucchini and yellow squash plants growing in my garden and we couldn't eat the veggies they produced fast enough. But I did come close to saturation point last week when, after picking one huge zucchini and one yellow squash, I couldn't think of yet another recipe to make with them.
It was reader Raana to the rescue. Raana happened to try my Doodhi Halwa recipe with zucchini and left me a message saying how much she loved it. I had contemplated using zucchini to make this very traditional Indian sweet before, but never got around to it. This time I had no excuse to procrastinate -- the time was just right.
So I got out my heaviest saucepan, grated the zucchini and yellow squash (use one or the other or both-- your results will be exactly the same), powdered some cardamom, and got the stove going.
Any kind of Halwa-- a Gajar Halwa or Carrot Halwa, or a Doodhi Halwa -- is really a minimum-ingredient and low-labor recipe, but that does not mean you can walk away from it. It takes an hour or more for the liquid to reduce, so you do need to stick around and stir the halwa frequently.
The result is totally worth the time. I am a huge fan of both Gajar Halwa and Doodhi Halwa, but this Zucchini Halwa surpassed both. Perhaps it's because the zucchini tends to be more bland than the other two vegetables, which -- if you think about it-- is perfect for a sweet recipe. Also, the zucchini tends to cook up softer, sikier, and it melts in your mouth.
Raana was kind enough to share her recipe with us, and you can read it in the comments section of this Doodhi Halwa post, but I spun off my own Halwa recipe with almond milk because I didn't have any pistachios on hand. Her version with pistachio milk sounds divine, so try it if you'd rather.
- 2 large zucchini or yellow squash or one of each. Peel and grate coarsely.
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 cups almond milk
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp powdered green cardamom seeds
- ½ to ¾ cup unrefined cane sugar (use the smaller quantity for a slightly less sweeter -- and healthier -- version)
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- Heat 1 tsp oil in a heavy-bottomed, large saucepan.
- Add the grated squash and salt. Saute about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture will exude a lot of liquid.
- Add the almond milk, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low so it boils gently, and let it cook about an hour to 90 minutes, or until the liquid has completely evaporated. Stir frequently while the mixture reduces. Don't be tempted to rush the process by using less liquid. You really need to let the liquid and heat infuse the squash over a period of time so it gets all silky and tender.
- Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Turn off the heat.
- In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tsp of oil, add the chopped walnuts and cardamom, and saute for a minute or until the walnuts turn lightly golden.
- Add to the halwa and mix thoroughly.
- Halwa, to my mind, tastes best chilled. But if you just can't wait, allow it to cool slightly and attack. After that first bite, you'll be a new person.