Maqsood’s Cashew Chickpea Halwa
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When I was growing up in Bangladesh during the 1970s and 80s, our preparations for Ramadan always started two weeks ahead of the new crescent moonsighting, which marks the beginning of the holy month.
My mother may already have made shopping lists to stock the pantry with foodstuffs she knew we would need but our spiritual preparations would also begin then, too.
Two weeks before the start of Ramadan is the 15th day of the month of Shaban and in many Muslim cultures, this day is special in itself. Different countries have different ways of celebrating and each has a different name for it but in Bangladesh, we call it ‘Shaab e Baraat’ and we think of this day as the gateway to Ramadan. It starts at sundown one day and finishes at sundown the next.
As a child and as an adolescent in Bangladesh, the way my middle class, academic family celebrated Shaab e Baraat taught me to be caring, sharing, forgiving and forbearing.
It’s a time when we commemorate and pray for our dead, for the forgiveness of their sins and for the forgiveness of our own wrongdoings. We believe that on the night of Shaab e Baraat, God writes the destinies of all men and women for the coming year by taking into account the deeds they committed in the past.
There is historical evidence that The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) used to fast in Shaban in preparation for Ramadan. When Usama bin Zaid asked ‘Why?’, he said ‘Shaban is a month between Rajab and Ramadan which many people neglect but it is a month in which an account of the deeds (of human beings) is presented before the Lord of the universe, so I wish that my deeds be presented at a time when I am in a state of fasting.’
The Prophet’s beloved youngest wife Aisha is also reported to have said that Prophet Muhammad used to fast for most of Shaban and that he said, ‘In this month Allah prescribes the list of the persons dying this year. Therefore, I like that my death comes when I am in a state of fasting.’
As a Bangladeshi-born Australian, I have many fond memories of Shaab e Baraat and of the holy month of Ramadan.
In 2022, Shaab e Baraat begins in Australia at sunset on Thursday March 17 and ends at sunset on Friday March 18. In Bangladesh, it begins on the evening of Friday March 18 and ends in the evening of Saturday March 19 and after more than 25 years living in Australia, it has coincided with a rare opportunity for me to celebrate such a fond occasion with my family and loved ones in Dhaka.
In the time I have been living in Australia, both my parents and two of my elder siblings have passed away so this year on this day of Shaab e Baraat, we will reflect and pay respect to them, visit their graves and offer Dou’aa with a grateful heart. We have also invited some orphan children to dine with us in our home, offering them some financial help to continue their study of the holy Quran.
In my childhood, in a close-knit family with six siblings, we savoured great food for Shaab e Baraat. This year my wife Shahnaz, her sister Shewly and I decided to prepare some very special and traditional Shaab e Baraat food both for ourselves and to be able to send to our extended family, relatives and our invited orphaned guests. This is the spirit that we are preparing for ourselves to observe a holy month of Ramadan.
Below is our family recipe for Cashew Chickpea Halwa which we always make and share for Shaab e Baraat. It’s easy to make and fun with children too. We hope you enjoy it.
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Clean and wash the chickpeas. Cover with water and soak for 4-5 hours or overnight. Then boil until lightly soft and all water dries up. Turn off heat and mash the soaked chickpeas with the liquid milk and keep to one side.
We haven’t tried to do this with tinned chickpeas but it could be a quick cheat method if you don’t have time to soak the chickpeas. Rinse thoroughly before mashing. Add only enough water to mash to thick-ish consistency.
Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Add the mashed up chickpeas, sugar, condensed milk, powdered milk, cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaf. Keep stirring with a ladle until thick.
Remove the cardamom, cinnamon and bayleaf from halwa mix. Stir in the rosewater then add the cashews – you can grind them or add whole – whichever looks prettiest. Lightly grease a 1inch deep tin with ghee, press the mixture evenly into the tin evenly and leave to cool for a minimum of half an hour. Slice into small 1inch square cubes and place a half cashew nut on the top of each cube to serve.