Diwali is almost here, and it’s time for indulging in some lovely sweets and savouries. Here’s presenting a different sort of sweet treat for the festive season – Butternut Squash Halwa! As the name suggests, the halwa is made using a variety of pumpkin called ‘butternut squash’, and is absolutely delicious.
A closer look at Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a variety of pumpkin with light brown skin on the outside and orange-red flesh inside. It isn’t very different from the regular red-fleshed pumpkin or ‘parangikkai‘ in Tamil. However, the flesh is sweeter than that of Parangikkai.
I find it easier to peel a butternut squash than a pumpkin, easier to remove the seeds and stringy bits. Head to this post of mine for a detailed guide on how to cut and use a butternut squash.
Does the butternut squash lend itself to Indian dishes?
Oh, yes, it does, and wonderfully at that!
My first encounter with butternut squash was at Namdhari’s Fresh, a few months ago. I used it in making a Tamilnadu-style poriyal, and it turned out fabulous. Since then, I have been hooked. The more I use butternut squash, the more I fall in love with the veggie. 🙂
I have used it in Avial too, and found it to go beautifully. A while back, I also used butternut squash in a gorgeous Kerala-style Mathan Payaru Errissery – will share the recipe on the blog soon. And, oh, I also used the peel and stringy bits from butternut squash to make a chutney, which was mind-blowingly delicious – recipe coming up on blog soon.
I recently used butternut squash in a halwa, and was super happy with the result. It tasted so, so good! Thanks to the naturally sweet taste of butternut squash, it goes beautifully in halwa. You need to use only a limited amount of sugar because of that. The squash (along with the little saffron I used) gave the halwa a glorious orange-red colour too, and I totally loved that.
It’s raining Diwali special recipes at Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge
I’m sharing this recipe for Butternut Squash Halwa in association with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge.
The Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a group of food bloggers who cook based on a pre-determined theme, every month. The group members are divided into pairs each month, and each pair exchanges two secret ingredients not known to the rest of the group. These secret ingredients are then used by each pair to prepare a dish that fits into the theme. Oh, it’s fun! 🙂
Poonam, the talented blogger at Annapurna, suggested the theme for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge for October – ‘Diwali Specials’. I’m in awe of the no-fry Easy Motichoor Laddoorecipe that Poonam has shared for the theme. It’s absolutely brilliant, and I can’t wait to try it out!
My partner for the month was Jayashree of Evergreen Dishes. I gave her the two secret ingredients of ‘gram flour’ and ‘salt’, and she used them to make these crispy, delish Ribbon Pakoda. She assigned to me the ingredients of ‘pumpkin’ and ‘ghee‘, and this Butternut Squash Halwa is what I chose to make with them. Now, it’s a big family favourite! 🙂
How to make Butternut Squash Halwa
Here is how I made it. It’s very easy to put together.
Ingredients (serves 4-5):
- 3 cups butternut squash, grated
- 3 tablespoons ghee
- 1/2 cup milk or as needed (optional)
- 12-15 cashewnuts
- 3/4 cup + 1-1/2 tablespoon sugar
- A pinch of saffron strands
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
1. Start by removing the skin, seeds and stringy bits from the butternut squash. Then, grate it medium-thick. I have used half of a large butternut squash here.
2. Heat 1-1/2 tablespoon ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Then reduce the flame to medium and add in the grated squash. Cook on medium flame, for 4-5 minutes or till it is almost done. You may add in some milk to cook the squash, if needed – I haven’t used any here. Stir intermittently.
3. Still keeping the flame at medium, add the sugar to the pan, along with the saffron. Mix well. The mixture will turn liquid-y at this stage. Continue to cook on medium flame till the mixture thickens up, 3-4 minutes. Stir intermittently.
4. Meanwhile, chop up the cashewnuts roughly. Heat the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons of ghee in a small pan. Add in the cashewnuts. Turn the flame down to medium and allow them to brown a little. Add the cashewnuts and ghee to the mixture cooking in the other pan. Switch off when the mixture has thickened up, but is still quite runny. Remember that it will thicken up further upon cooling.
5. Mix in the cardamom powder. Your Parangikkai Halwa is ready. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or chilled.
Tips & Tricks
1. I have used butternut squash that I picked up from Namdhari’s Fresh. You may use regular red pumpkin instead, too.
2. Since butternut squash is quite sweet, I needed to add a limited amount of sugar only. Adjust the quantity of sugar you use as per personal taste preferences.
3. You may add in some raisins, along with the cashewnuts. Here, I haven’t.
4. Make sure the grated butternut squash is fully cooked before adding in the sugar.
5. Use a heavy-bottomed pan, for best results.
6. You could cook the grated butternut squash covered, but that is absolutely not necessary. It cooks quite easily uncovered too.
7. This Butternut Squash Halwa looks quite similar to the Kasi Halwa that is commonly served in South Indian weddings. Kasi Halwa has the same orange-red colour that this halwa has. However, Kasi Halwa is made using white pumkpin and that bright hue comes from food colouring. This halwa gets its beautiful golden-orange colour from the butternut squash and the use of saffron. I have not used any artificial food colouring here.
8. You may use more ghee in the halwa, if you so prefer.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!