Absolutely delicious, this is one of the few Indian sweets I actually enjoy. This dessert is not as sickeningly sweet as most Indian sweets are and with a few adjustments, works fine for lactose intolerant eaters.
Gajjar ka Halwa, or carrot pudding is rich visually, in taste and tradition. But here’s a heads up – this dish needs a careful eye, and the patience of a baker. This is a recipe which I got from an aunt, with a few tweaks and suggestions from a few restaurant chefs. It’s taken a few tries to combine the suggestions, but it sure as heck works!
I’m making a massive quantity for Diwali, so the recipe below has been pared down and should feed around 4 people. (More, if everyone’s watching their weight!). I also don’t use Khoya (condensed milk) for obvious reasons so this recipe is less fatty than normal.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours or more
Carrots – 1kg (that’s about 8-9 medium ones)
Almond slivers – a handful (available in the dessert aisle of your supermarket)
Raisins – a handful
Cashew – a handful
Milk – 2.5 cups (for those with lactose intolerance, use lacto-free milk. I use the semi-skimmed variety and it works)
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp, or if you love the flavor you can adjust it to taste
Sugar – 3/4 to 1 cup (again depends on how sweet your tooth is!)
Clarified/unsalted butter Or Ghee -3-4 tbsp
(now this is the only part I struggle with! I’ve tried margarine and the taste has been awful. So, I use the Ghee, but then eat very small portions of the halwa!)
If you don’t have a milk intolerance:
Use 2 Cups of milk in the recipe
Use ½ cup of condensed milk or Khoya if you can find it.
How to put it together!
In a food processor, grate the washed and peeled carrots. This is the most painful part of the recipe and if you have a processor, it will make life so easy.
Chop the cashew nuts. Keep the almond slivers and washed resins aside. Soak the resins for a few minutes in water.
Heat the unsalted butter/ghee in a thick-bottomed pan, add grated carrots and sauté for around 10-15 minutes. Do this on medium heat. You don’t want to burn the carrots. Take a bite, see if the carrots have softened.
If everything is going right, this is a good time to slowly add 2 cups of milk to the carrots. Pour it in slowly, you don’t want to burn anything. Throw in the cardamom powder, stir well and then still on medium heat, cook till the milk is pretty much all gone. This can take a while, since the heat is quite low so as not to curdle the milk. I did laugh when I saw an online recipe that says the milk evaporates in 8 minutes! Whatever you do, don’t forget to keep an eye on the milk so it doesn’t curdle!
When the milk’s all gone (don’t go by a clock here), add in the remaining ½ cup of milk and the lacto-free cream. Stir in the sugar at the same time. Cook it till the sugar is well and truly dissolved and the remaining milk has evaporated. Again, this takes the patience and the eye of a baker. It can take a good 20-30 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t get lazy and keep stirring continuously!
Keep the cooking process going for a few minutes (2-3 minutes) after the milk & sugar has well and truly melded with the carrots.
Drop in the cashew nuts, almond slivers and raisins. Stir them in
If you are not lactose intolerant or want the real deal and want to use condensed milk, remember in the step where you add 1/2 cup of milk, add condensed milk or Khoya instead and don’t add any cream.
Tip: add a few strings of saffron to the dish when you add the milk. Delish!
I ran out of saffron this evening and my carrots were more orange than red which is probably why my Halwa this evening turned out quite orange!
How to serve: Traditionally served piping hot, many homes in India will pare this with a scoop of Vanilla Ice cream. I skip the ice cream but love this dessert cold out of the fridge as well. So, you have a myriad of ways you can choose to serve. I served my Halwa this Diwali with store bought Kulfi (Indian ice cream).
Booze that goes with this: None. The flavors of this dessert are too strong in my opinion to go well with any dessert/port wine. Avoid!