When Christianna had taken me into the Recipe Swap group (read more about the group here), one of the things she said in our initial correspondence was that she was excited to get an Indian perspective for the swap recipes. While all my swaps have not been with an Indian twist, I thought with the Indian festival season here, I would give this time’s recipe swap an Indian twist.
When I saw the swap recipe (for a carrot pie), my initial plan was to make this carrot souffle I saw in a magazine I had just bought. But then I am not much of a fan of pureed carrots. It reminds me of baby food, and even though the recipe sounded interesting, I wasn’t sure I would truly enjoy it.
So I thought of making something Indian. Now, I am not a big fan of Indian sweets. I like them but most of them I find too sweet. If I want something sweet I generally prefer a baked good over the traditional sweets. Though I don’t mind a piece of gulab jamun, or hot atte ka halwa now and then. And sometimes gajar ka halwa too makes the privileged list.
Gajar ka halwa (or Indian carrot pudding) is a dessert of creamy, thickened milk with softened carrots contrasting with the added crunch of nuts. Milk and grated carrots are cooked until they become a dryish homogeneous mass, and then cooked with a little clarified butter (or ghee) and sugar and subtly flavored with cardamom powder and sometimes saffron strands to make absolute deliciousness.
Like most Indian desserts (or desserts in general for that matter) it is a rich dish. The ghee adds to the richness and believe me the more there is in it, the better it tastes. You can of course reduce the amount of ghee. I used a little more than I generally would, just because I was making enough for one serving each and really wanted that one serving to be the best. And just to make you feel less guilty about adding it in the dish, ghee is known to be an Ayurvedic ingredient which helps in anti-aging and digestion. And if that isn’t enough, carrots are loaded with Vitamin A and are a very good source of fiber, and vitamins C and K. Milk adds some calcium and protein to this dish. So do the cashews.
You can make more complicated versions of this recipe, and they will definitely taste as good. But I fell back to my mom and used her recipe. It’s easy, uncomplicated and does not require any ingredients that are not already there in your pantry or in your local grocery store. My grandmother uses khoya in the recipe, which is nothing but slow reduced milk. In India you can get fresh khoa from the market, but in the past it’s contents have been questionable and reports of it being adulterated have made people generally steer away from it. My mother just reduces the milk with the carrots itself and since that eliminates any possibility of adulteration, I prefer her method. Also since I personally don’t like raisins, even though lot of recipes feature them I opted to leave them out. Instead I used a few grated cashews in the dish. You can use roasted cashews as well.
This is also a perfect dish for Diwali, the festival of lights which is also celebrated as the Hindu New Year. On Diwali people decorate their house with flowers, lights and candles/diyas. They offer prayer to the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. Family and friends share sweets during the celebration of Diwali and burst crackers,though now to discourage noise pollution and smoke there are fewer people each year bursting crackers.
- 225 gms grated carrot (the weight is after grating the carrots)
- 250 ml milk
- 1-2 tbsp melted ghee (you could even add 2-3 tbsp- it will be richer, and tastier as well)
- ¼ cup to ½ cup sugar (I used a little more than ¼ cup and found the sweetness perfect- but adjust sweetness according to how you like)
- 5-6 cashews (soaked for 15 minutes)
- a pinch ground cardamom
- few roasted cashews, for garnish
- Grate the carrots. In a pan (preferably non stick) big enough (make sure it is a big saucepan as the milk does boil and froth over a lot), add the milk and grated carrot and cook on medium heat till all the milk evaporates, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in between. If you double the quantity, it will take longer for the milk to evaporate.
- Add the melted ghee and cook 3-5 minutes till the ghee separates.
- Add the sugar (about ¼ cup to ½ cup) and cook for another 5 minutes, till the sugar melts and the mix dries up.
- Take the soaked cashews and grate them in the mixture. Add the cardamom powder, mix and remove from heat.
- Garnish with a few roasted cashews.