Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Somali Xalwo

Massively popular in Somalia, I understand that xalwo (pronounced halwa) was originally for special occasions only--weddings and greater Eid, for example--but has in the last few years become available less expensively and is now eaten far more often.
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp cardamom
  • 3 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1/4 C cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 C water, divided
  • orange and yellow food colouring, if desired
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 C sugar
 1.  In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and lightly brown it.  When foam subsides, turn off heat and stir in cardamom, nutmeg, and oil.  Set aside.
2.  In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch, 1/4 C water, and a drop of each food colouring (see notes, below).
3.  In a deep pot over high heat, combine sugars and 1 1/2 C water.  When this comes to a boil, carefully stir in cornstarch mixture.  Reduce heat to medium-high and cover for 2-3 minutes.
4.  Start adding the butter mixture, a spoonful about every 2 minutes, and stir well with each addition, until all butter is incorporated.
5.  Continue cooking and stirring gently until the xalwo starts releasing oil.  Use a ladle or baster to remove oil and discard.  Repeat this step, stirring and removing oil, until the xalwo comes together into a mass.
6.  Transfer to a bowl, carefully, and cool 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

Robyn's notes: This was ok, but I had a weird experience with the flavour.  The candy didn't seem to smell like anything at all, but once I put it in my mouth it felt more like I was smelling spices than tasting them.  That was sort of off-putting, so I can't go above 3 stars.  I didn't use food colouring, I went traditional in that respect and used saffron.  For instructions on doing so, watch the video linked below.  Gotta be patient with step 5.  I was so worried that I would overcook and crystallize the whole batch that I thought no oil was being released.  I kept turning the heat down and then inching it back up because of that worry.  In the end I could have just cooked it merrily along, the oil did release at the end, though it wasn't easy to scoop out.  Once cooled, I found it easiest to cut with a pizza cutter.  Watch me demonstrate this recipe on youtube!

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often