Khoya made at home is a true test of patience. Also known as mawa, khoya is essentially milk minus the water content. Cow’s milk is over 87% water. To prepare khoya, the milk must be boiled for a long period over a low flame until most of the moisture evaporates, leaving behind only the milk solids. Depending on the length of time the milk is boiled for, and, consequently, to what extent it has reduced, you can get three kinds of khoya.
The one with the maximum moisture percentage (37-44) is called dhaap. Smooth in consistency, it is used as the base for gulab jamun and pantua. Dhaap, when reduced, lends a granular consistency to khoya with lesser moisture percentage (35-40); it is called daanedaar khoya. This is used to make kalakand as well as gourd or carrot halwa.
Further boiling gives a solid consistency of khoya called batti or pindi khoya, with around 31-33% moisture; it can be shaped into blocks. This is grated or crumbled and used as a base for barfis, peda, as a filling for gujiyas, and in Parsi mawa cake.
According to a paper published on Argicultureinindia.net, the preparation and use of khoya is mostly confined to India’s northern and western regions. In fact, 36% of India’s total khoya production happens in Uttar Pradesh.
I have never come across a south Indian recipe that uses khoya but there is an iconic Tamil sweet dish that follows the khoya-making process to quite some extent. Paalkova, also called theratti paal, is a sweet prepared by reducing milk until it is granular. Sugar is added to the reduced milk and it is stirred continuously until the mixture is fudgy.
If you don’t mind the time and elbow grease needed to make khoya at home, there are a few tips worth noting. Use a heavy-bottomed pan so that the milk does not burn at the bottom. Use a wide and shallow pan for faster evaporation. Use a sharp metal spatula (called khunti) to keep scraping any milk solids that start sticking to the sides of the pan so that they don’t burn and spoil the taste of khoya. Don’t forget to stir the milk continuously—or find a willing volunteer.
If this process seems too tiring, which it is, khoya can be sourced either from a halwai or made from milk powder in the microwave in a matter of minutes. Several hundreds of videos on YouTube explain this short-cut process. Dairy brands also sell industrially made khoya, which does away with the risk of any possible adulteration or contamination while buying it loose from a sweet shop. With Diwali round the corner, it’s a useful ingredient to stock up on in the fridge to speed up the preparation of Indian desserts such as gajar ka halwa, barfis and pedas.
Khoya, when added to savoury dishes such as a paneer or vegetable gravy dish, or as an addition to koftas or patties, lends a rich flavour and texture that makes it fit for a festive spread.
Khoya Matar Alu Patties
Addition of khoya gives these patties a rich flavour and a festive touch.
2 medium-sized boiled potatoes
Half cup frozen green peas
100g grated khoya
2 tsp green chilli-ginger paste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fried gram (dalia/pottukadalai), powdered
2 tbsp raisins, chopped
2 tbsp chopped cashew nuts
Ghee to fry the patties
Peel and grate the boiled potatoes. Take frozen green peas in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer for two-three minutes. Drain thoroughly. Transfer to a mixer jar and blend to a coarse purée.
Combine the grated potatoes, puréed peas and grated khoya in a bowl. Add the green chilli-ginger paste, cumin powder, salt and fried gram powder. Three-four tablespoons of breadcrumbs can also be used instead of the fried gram powder. Combine everything to form a dough. Divide into eight portions.
In a small bowl, combine the chopped raisins and cashews.
Shape each portion of dough into a cup. Place half a teaspoon of the raisin-cashew mix in the cup and bring the edges together to close the patties. Smoothen out the surfaces to finish shaping the patties. Repeat the process for the remaining dough.
The patties can be prepared up to this point, placed on a tray and refrigerated until later.
Heat 1-2 tbsp of ghee on a tava, or griddle. Place the patties on the moderately hot tava and cook each side for around four minutes on a low flame until golden and crisp.
Serve hot with green chutney.
Khoya Coconut Barfi
Makes 12 pieces
Half tsp ghee
A pinch of saffron
2 tsp warm milk
100g grated khoya
2 tbsp sugar
100g desiccated coconut
A pinch of turmeric powder (optional)
Grease a small (four-five inches) tray or deep dish with a few drops of ghee and keep aside.
In a small cup, mix the saffron and the warm milk and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
In a heavy pan, sauté the khoya for three-four minutes until it melts and is well roasted. To this, add the sugar and turmeric powder (if using) and continue stirring for another two minutes until the sugar melts and combines with the khoya. Add the desiccated coconut and saffron-milk to this mixture and combine well.
Transfer the mixture to the greased tray and smoothen the surface using a silicone spatula or the bottom of a katori. Score and cut into squares and remove gently from the tray. Keep refrigerated.
Notes: Add a few spoons of milk while stirring if the mixture seems too dry.
The mixture can also be rolled into small laddoos.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting a single ingredient prepared two ways. Nandita Iyer’s latest book, The Great Indian Thali—Seasonal Vegetarian Wholesomeness (Roli Books), is available for pre-order now. @saffrontrail on Twitter and Instagram.