Gajar ka Halwa (or carrot halwa/ pudding) is by far my favourite Indian (hot) dessert. Sadly, it’s only really delicious in the winter because of the quality carrots available. The summer carrots are horribly bland and not worth consuming in any form. Plus,who wants a hot dessert in the Indian summer?!
As much as I love it,I have always been wary of making it, for 2 reasons: (1) There’s no way mine can ever compare to my Mom’s! (2) Although the ingredients are few and process simple, it’s very time consuming. Enough reason for me never to try it. But having taken the plunge (just as winter is on it’s way out!), I have to say it was worth every minute spent labouring over the stove! Here it is:
All I used (for 6 small dessert bowl servings) was:
500 gms carrots
500 ml full cream/ full fat milk
4 green elaichi/ cardamoms
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp almonds
2 tbsp cashew nuts
And that’s it!!
Here’s how I made it:
I weighed my carrots…
Then I peeled and grated them (yeah this is the REAL reason I kept putting this off. I HATE grating carrots!)
I placed them in my kadhai/ wok (you can use any wide bottomed pan – my Mom insists you should use a heavy bottomed pan and not a non-stick. I only have a non-stick kadhai so I used it and it wasn’t too different!)
Next, I added the milk (all this is before turning on the heat)…
Gave it a good stir and turned on the stove on medium heat…
While I waited for it to come to a boil, stirring occasionally, I blanched the almonds by soaking them in boiling water for about 15 mins…
Then I remembered I had forgotten to add the cardamom! So I dug them out and pounded them in the mortar-pestle…
Stirred it in…
While I waited for it to boil and then absorb the milk, I peeled the almonds and proceeded to chop them as well as the cashews. Once the almonds are blanched, the peel slips off easily. All you have to do is press each almond gently between 2 fingers and the peel slides off! Sorry I don’t have pics of that part!
I chopped each almond & cashew into approx 4 pieces, most of which then proceeded to fall apart from the middle on their own and I got about 6-8 pieces from each nut.
After about 45 minutes on medium heat, the milk reduced to about half. Up until this point, you can give the halwa an occasional stir to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan and burn. But this point onwards, you need to watch it like a hawk. The more it proceeds to dry, the higher the chances of sticking and burning. If it does, you’re going to have to scrap the whole lot…
Once it reached this stage and most of the liquid was gone,, I reduced the flame to the lowest possible and continued to roast it, stirring often, until the colour went from orange to a gorgeous deep carrot red…
Then I added the sugar and the nuts (reserving some for the garnish) and stirred them in…
After this point, I only cooked it an additional 5 minutes, just until the sugar was dissolved and I couldn’t taste/ feel the granules any more! Took me a cool 3 hours on the stove to make!!
Finally, I grabbed a bowl and dug in straight away – devouring dessert before dinner!!
Now this is the way my Mom makes it and, obviously, I think it rocks. But I know of a few other things that people do:
- Add raisins as well along with the nuts. I hate them. AK loves them. Fortunately for me, I just didn’t have any in the house!!
- Fry the carrots in 2-3 tbsp of ghee right at the beginning, before adding milk. That adds the colour faster and cooks the halwa faster too. Some people add boiled, hot milk at this stage and it speeds up the process more.
- Many add ghee and grated/crumbled khoya (reduced solid milk) along with the sugar and nuts. I prefer not too, since I don’t like sugar, ghee or khoya to overpower the flavour of slow cooked carrots & milk.
- This amount of sugar is subjective. For me, it’s just right. Any more, and it will taste syrupy, overpowering the natural sweetness of carrots.
- Many use condensed milk instead of fresh milk.
- There’s many microwave recipes going around too, which are much faster but looses out the advantages of slow cooking.
Overall, it’s a versatile recipe with numerous variations and very easily scale-able. I say try them all and find your favourite!