A Dessert with No Birthplace? – The pride of the Mughal Kitchens.

Habshi-Halwa

I am sure we all have tasted the brown ‘Peda’ or fudge barfi that’s available in almost all sweet shop in the city. I was surprised to see the same sweet in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai. While most sweets change their nature and taste according to the region it is made, this particular sweet surprisingly remains identical throughout the country. I have tasted ‘Rossogolla’ on every part of the country but the softness and taste of Kolkata ‘Rosogolla’ is unmatched. Similarly, for ‘Laddu’ also the taste and colour vary in every part of the country.

ebooks-with-resell-rightsThis is not the case for the ‘Milk Peda’ or ‘Habshi Halwa’ as it called in North India. It’s similar taste everywhere made me surprised and I started taking help from Google. Its simplicity made me sure of one thing that it is either very simple to make or there is not much opportunity of experimenting. Then I came across a fact that the sweet is not indigenous to India and actually have a global presence. The same sweet can be found in Mexico and rest of the Latin American countries. It is also available in parts of Europe and Russia and also in parts of Africa. Most importantly none of the countries claims its origin. It may be a very old sweet that has travelled with the mankind and have lost all traces of its origin or it may have originated in so many regions without being influenced by others. The debate will keep going.

The closest relative of Brown Milk Peda certainly resides in Mexico and to its pride, the distant cousin brother is called Cajeta. In rest of the world, it is called by a fancy Spanish name- ‘Dulce De Leche’. It literally means ‘Sweet made from Milk’. Let’s find out some of the variants of fudge available worldwide.

Cajeta: Cajeta is available in Mexico and made of the equal proportion of goat milk and cow milk. It’s vanilla flavoured version available in Central Mexico is called Manjar. The city of Celaya in the country is famous for its special Cajeta. In 2010 Cajeta became Bicentennial Desert of Mexico honouring its rich history and even an important part of the freedom movement of the country. Being originated in the city of Celaya where the Independence of the country also initiates under the leadership of Father Hidalgo Cajeta is very close to the Mexicans. It was also used as a nutritional food for the independence army because it can be stored and transported very easily for a long period.

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Dulce De Leche: In most part of the world the Milk Peda is called by this Spanish name. It has certain variation in terms of taste and texture. In El Salvadore, the sweet is soft and crumbly. ‘Cortada’, as it is called in Cuba is made from soured milk curdled and sweetened. In the Dominican Republic, it is made from milk mixed with equal amount of sugar and added with cinnamon. In Puerto Rico, it is made from burnt coconut milk. In Panama, the dulce de leche is made with a crystallized topping.

The south Asian country of Philipines is also fond of this extraordinary delicacy and is consumed as dessert individually or with cakes. The French version of it is not thick enough and is more like a spread which they heavily use on slices of bread and cakes. In France, it is called ‘Confiture De Lait’ or Milk Jam. A very similar version is also available in Norway which is called ‘HaPa’. It was originated in the country during the second world war when scarcity and uncertainty over food supply made the people condense and burn the milk to keep it fresh for longer period. in Russia too, a burnt milk spread is extremely popular and can be found in almost all households.

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Habshi Halwa: This is the subcontinental version of Dulce De Leche and extremely popular in India and Pakistan. It seems the desert came to this part of the country with the Mughals but where did the Mughals learn about it is unclear. it was very popular among the Mughal Royals and was called ‘Shehjada’ or the crown prince of all halwas (sweet).

I tried to find out the easiest way of making this Royal Desert in my kitchen and figured out that it can actually be made in just 5 minutes. If you have a sudden guest and you are worried to present which sweet to them – Milk Peda or Habshi Halwa is the right thing. Let me share the recipe here –

Ingredients –

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Preparation –

Take a Bowl of large size and pour the Milkmaid. Be careful in selecting the bowl size so that it is about one-fourth filled when the entire milkmaid is emptied – remember it may spill out when heated if the bowl is not large enough. Put it into the oven and set the Microwave temperature to 200ºC. Microwave for 1 Minute and keep an eye on the Bowl. if you see it is spilling over stop the oven. (Generally, it should not spill over but machines act ridiculously at times). After 1 Minute take the bowl out and you will see the edges of the Milkmaid being burnt. Stir it very well and again put in the oven and repeat the process. Do the same for Five times and after that, you will find a crumbly brown crystallized substance in your bowl. If you are not satisfied with the colour or texture, you may repeat the process a few more time. Once it is completely dry add the milk – it may be warm or cold-  and mix well. Let the substance cool down. You can simply put it in the fridge if you are in hurry. Once it is cool, spread it on a flat plate and cut into square pieces. Your Habshi Halwa or Milk Peda is done. Trust me it does not take more than 10 Minutes to do the entire work and you get a plate of extremely delicious and mouthwatering sweet. A full Can of MilKmaid should make about 10 pieces of proper size cubes.

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