Halva is a very popular sweet in Kerala. Sweet shops carry umpteen variations of these, but pumpkin halva is not one of them, usually. It is typically made at home with wholesome ingredients, and is in fact good for you!!! The sweetener of choice is jaggery – unrefined evaporated cane juice – which is rich is calcium and iron as well as some trace minerals. It is diary free and vegan and there is very little added fat. Are deserts expected to be healthier ??
Mothers and grandmothers of India make halva with vegetables and fruits, sneaking in that extra bit of vegetables into the family’s diet. It was also a way of preserving seasonal fruits. Just like jams making thick halva for preservation is a labor intensive project. The process called for constant stirring for long hours and was usually attempted when there were more than one pair of hands in the kitchen.
This is my take on the pumpkin halva. It is soft, healthy, delicious and most importantly comes together in 30 minutes. It is not meant to be stored for long periods, though it stays fresh in the fridge for a week or longer.
I usually make these when I have roasted pumpkin on hand. That is the easiest way to go. If you are starting with fresh pumpkin, peel and dice about 3 cups and steam on a steamer rack and mash. you can even micro wave the pumpkin slices with 1/4 C water till it is tender.
Place the jaggery in a small sauce pan with 1/2 C water and heat over medium heat . As the water heats the jaggery melts . If needed stir and turn the pieces a couple times to speed up the process . Take flour and mix it with water and a pinch of salt to make a thin batter . Powder the cardamom seeds.
Take a thick bottomed sauce pan and mix the mashed pumpkin , melted jaggery, and batter together. It is better to use a deep vessel , as there will be less splatter and cleanup will be much easier. Cook the mix over medium heat stirring occasionally. As the mix begins to thicken increase the frequency of stirring . Take some water and ice cubes in a medium bowl and place a small bowl on it. This water-bath is used to check if the halva is ready .
As the mix cooks and thickens taste to see if it is sweet enough . This is the time to add more sugar or jaggery water if necessary . Once the mix has shrunk in volume and begins to coat the back of the spoon place a dollop in the bowl waiting in the water-bath. If it does not spread the halva is done. Sprinkle cardamom powder, if using , and stir to mix and turn off the heat . Transfer to the serving bowls immediately . Garnish with coconut flakes or almond slices .