One of the things I felt I would never be able to eat again after I adopted a Vegan diet was Indian desserts made using ghee, especially the very festive Sooji and Atta Halva. These dishes were prepared in my home during festivals, special occasions, as prayer offerings and sometimes just to make everyone happy! Then, as I turned Vegan, I thought that it would be quite vain to attempt making these special sweets using a ghee substitute. Moreover it seemed blasphemous to make Halva without ghee! One day, I just tried it anyway! I made Sooji Halva with pure olive oil. I used a very small quantity of oil to fry the sooji in. Then I continued making Halva with the standard proportion of same quantity of sugar as the sooji and four times the water and the Halva was just delicious. Not just that, it was also very light on the stomach! As our modern lifestyle naturally does not involve much physical activity, it seems that avoiding superfoods like Ghee is actually better for us as we are incapable of processing these foods sans hard labour. Then I went a step further and tried my hand at making atta Halva without ghee. On the second attempt it turned out perfect. If you have made atta halva before, you will know that a good quantity of ghee is required to smoothly roast the atta and avoid lumps when adding water. But I made this with only two tablespoons of pure olive oil and by dry roasting the atta. The Halva was smooth and creamy and again very light on the stomach. It is definitely worth a try if you can manage to put in a little bit extra effort for yourself or your Vegan friends.
• Atta: 1 cup
• Jaggery: 1 cup
• Water: 2 cups
• Olive oil: 2 tablespoon
• Cardamom: 4 – 5
• Almond or cashew nuts to garnish
Heat the oil in a deep karhai. Then add the atta and start to roast it in low flame. Alongside, heat the water in another vessel, add the jaggery and bring to boil. Then turn off the flame and let this cool. Remember that it is important that you do not use boiling water for making Halva with no ghee as the atta is going to be dry and if you add boiling water then it will end up forming clumps. Then proceed with roasting your atta on low flame. Once the atta turns brownish and you can get the aroma of roasted atta then turn off the flame. With your spatula (it would be even better if you can use the soft agile plastic spatula for this process as it ensures that no clumps form when you add water) smooth down the roasted atta to make sure there are no small clumps in it already. Just mash any atta clumps you see during this stage. Remember that the flame remains off during this process.
Then when the atta looks well smoothed out you can add the water. But remember to add water to onc side of your karhai, mix it into the little bit of atta it comes into contact with, mashing along the way to smoothen out any atta balls. Then when the water is absorbed add some more and keep mixing like this till all the water is absorbed. When mixed slowly like this the atta gets completely homogenized with the water. Finally, you can add the cardamom powder. Voila! Your Atta Halva is ready. Now garnish with almonds and cashews and serve hot. It tastes just like the regular Halva and is smooth and creamy. Go ahead. Try it out and serve with pride.
Ms Aditi Pathak Is based in Singapore. Widely travelled and from a Services background, cooking is one of her many passions.