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Friday, June 2, 2017

Papaya Halwa/ Papaya Pudding

The first and only time I had papaya halwa was when I was probably 5 or 6 years old. And I still remember the beautiful golden color of the preparation. In fact, some of my food memories are so strong that I try to recreate the recipe by remembering the various flavors that I experienced while eating it. Well, for this recipe I didn't have to take that effort, but just picked up the phone and called mom. That took us down memory lane. My mom reminded me that we had planted several, almost six or eight papaya trees in the garden. And we used to get a lot of fruit.  There was a school nearby and young kids used to pick papayas from the trees on their way home and at other times a group of monkeys used to come and pick the delicious produce. Of course the most delicious ones would be the ones pecked by the birds. There was plenty of fruit for everyone. My mom used to make another preparation using raw papayas which she grated and it was a cumin flavored spicy version. That is a recipe for another post, but lets get on with this one.

For papaya halwa, you need a semi-ripe papaya. It should be a firm papaya, with light golden color on the skin and when it is cut open, it should be yellow in color and not white. A raw papaya with green skin and white flesh will not work. Neither will a completely soft, sweet papaya which is ready to cut and eat work. It must be semi-ripe. So choose carefully. The result has a gorgeous golden color and a delicious taste and it can be cooked to a firmer texture and cut into pieces or left soft and eaten with a spoon. I made this in the pressure cooker and hence was able to cook it in minimal ghee and sugar. A  more traditional method of cooking in the open pan will require a little more ghee.

1 semi-ripe papaya,  yellow in color but extremely firm, grated (measure this). I had 4 cups of grated papaya
2 cups (Half the volume of the grated raw papaya), fresh or frozen finely grated coconut
3-4 tbsp (1/4 cup)  cup ghee/clarified butter (you will need at least 1/2 cup if cooked via traditional method)
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 cup raisins - soak this in a little water (optional - I did not add)
sliced almonds/ cashews (optional - I did not add)
1/4-1/2 cup of water
2 cups sugar (to taste, if needed add more)

Peel and deseed and clean the center of the papaya. Then grate it and measure the grated papaya. Then measure out fresh grated coconut. It should be half in volume compared to the papaya.

Instant Pot
In the Instant Pot liner, add 1/4 cup water and 1 tbsp of ghee. Then add half the grated papaya to cover the entire base of the cooker. Then spread a tbsp of ghee on top of this layer. Then add the rest of the grated papay in a layer and spread a tbsp of ghee on top of this layer. Add another 1/4 cup of water. Then add the grated coconut on top of the papaya layer. Then close the lid with vent sealed. Cook on manual mode for 8 mins. Then let it stay in warm mode for 2-3 minutes and then release the pressure. Check if the papaya is cooked. If not, cook it for a couple minutes more till the papaya is softened. If needed, add a little more water to build up pressure. 

Once the papaya is softened, stir the mixtures a little to displace the layer touching the base (so that it doesn't burn) and then add the sugar in a layer on top of the papaya coconut mixture. Again close the lid and cook it on manual mode for 2-3 minutes. Let it stay in warm mode for 5 minutes and then release the pressure and open the cooker. Add the cardamom powder and if using add the slices of almonds and raisins. Mix it well and then switch to saute mode. Cook, stirring occasionally till the water has evaporated and it has reached a pudding like consistency. It will take a few minutes. Add a tbsp of ghee at the end and mix it well to give a rich taste. 

Stovetop Pressure Cooker
You can use the same method in the stove top pressure cooker. Make sure to keep an eye on the time and the whistles to make sure that the papaya doesn't burn. Serve warm or cold.

Traditional method

Add ghee to a large saucepan, which can hold all the ingredients. You will need to add at least 1/2 cup of ghee instead of 1/4 tbsp to make sure that the papaya doesn't get stuck. Add the papaya to the ghee and cook it, covering the pan to trap the steam and stir occasionally till the papaya is softened. Then add the grated coconut and the sugar. Stir it and mix well. The sugar will melt and form a syrup. Keep stirring the mixture till it starts to thicken. Add the cardamom powder, raisins and almonds and stir. Cook till you have the desired consistency.  This method may also need a little more sugar. Taste it and adjust the amount of sugar.  


If you want, you can cook it further and thicken it. Then you can pour it into a greased plate, let it cool and cut it into pieces. The semi-raw papaya doesn't have a very high water content, so when cooking it in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot make sure to add adequate liquid to build up the pressure. 


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