Carrot Halwa (Gajar Halwa)

18 Aug

Recipe source: La Fuji Mama

A couple months back, I found the good fortune of finding this blog, and this recipe on it. It is now a favorite I will be making often, as well as taking to parties, as many won’t know it.

This recipe is slightly time-consuming, but ultimately easy. You start with carrots…

The original recipe makes a huge portion and calls for 2 lbs of carrots. I halved it for just myself, so this is 1 lb of carrots. The first thing to do is grate them. You can use the large holes of a cheese grater for this task. Or…

I would like to take this opportunity to mention my lovely food processor, which is the bees knees. Look at this! It grates carrots. SO worth the few dishes of cleanup afterward. It may be hard to tell, but this is an “action shot,” for which I went to the trouble of setting up my camera on a stack of books, with the self-timer feature… I love my food processor just that much.

Look at this beautiful pile of grated carrots!

Dump these along with some milk into a large pot or pan with sides. This will get cooked down on medium heat until most of the milk is gone (about 30 minutes). Although Fuji Mama’s recipe says the carrots soak up the milk, I’m not fully convinced this happens… it is more likely the milk evaporting, which seems like a waste to me. The second time I made this, I cut back on the amount of milk, from 4 cups to 3. I could probably cut it down even more. But I do have a suggestion for what to do with the extra milk, which I’ll come back to.

In the meantime, I suggest you make your ghee (or begin gently warming it). My second time around with this recipe I decided to make proper ghee, since
1) I can’t find it at the grocery store nearby
2) I made clarified butter last time (which I suspect is cheating)
and 3) my mom sent me this recipe.

In the process, I learned that ghee is definitely NOT the same as clarified butter or oil. It’s brown and has a wonderfully rich, carmely taste. Although the halwa only calls for 3 tablespoons of ghee, I made the ghee with a whole stick of butter. The ghee will keep in a jar for a month, and supposedly does not need to be refrigerated, although I’m a chicken and refrigerated mine anyway… I’m looking forward to using it in other things, maybe even sauteeing veggies with it. In short, do yourself a favor and MAKE THIS.

This is what I got after straining. My Indian friends reading this blog and kindly confirm if it is, in fact, ghee. I think it is?! A word of advice – strain with cheesecloth. My seive was not fine enough, though I don’t mind the small brown bits too much.

As the milk in the carrots evaporates, the carrots will get a slightly dessicated, toasty look to them, but they should not brown. When most of the milk is gone – or you lose patience – add dry milk powder, sugar, and cardamom seeds. (I have to admit, this recipe makes me very excited to use up this huge box of powdered milk I acquired when trying my hand at another Indian dessert, gulab jamun.)  I used half the sugar of the original recipe in this halwa and liked it that way (the 1 cup measurement below is half). So start small and add to taste if you don’t have a huge sweet tooth.

For those who are thinking of substituting ground cardamom for seeds, do if you must, but… I have tried this with both, and the difference was remarkable. The seeds give this dish a bite that can’t be beat! The ground stuff really does not compare. (San Diegans, you can buy pods or seeds in bulk at Henry’s.) The downside to using seeds is that biting into them is a bit like biting into a peppercorn – not my favorite thing in the world. It might work to freshly grind them in a coffee maker… they are pretty impervious to a mortar and pestle… I might keep working on this one. But trust me, use the seeds.

Let the carrots, dry milk powder, sugar and cardamom simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Taste and add more sugar and cardamom as desired. If your carrots are still very liquidy, strain them into a bowl to save for later. This liquid is delicious mixed with yogurt for a light smoothie. Immediately add warm ghee to the carrot mixture and return to heat for a few minutes, mixing all ingredients together to lightly brown.

To serve, remove from heat and garnish with chopped nuts (usually pistachios, cashews or almonds). Carrot halwa can be served in a bowl or pressed into a mold and shaped. Serve warm.

RECIPE – Nirvana’s Carrot Halwa

Makes 8-10 servings

2 pounds grated carrots
3 cups milk
1 cup granulated sugar, or more to taste
1 2/3 cup dry powdered milk
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
3 tablespoons ghee
Optional: Cashews or crushed pistachios for garnish.

1. Put the carrots and milk in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring frequently until the milk is absorbed into the carrots.

2. Add the sugar, dry powdered milk, and cardamom seeds to the pot.  Stir everything together and cook the mixture for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat, and set aside.

3. In a large frying pan, heat the ghee over high heat, then add the carrot mixture.  Cook and stir until the mixture turns a golden brown, then remove it from the heat and serve.  The halwa can be served in bowls, or pressed into a mold to be shaped.  Optional: cashews or crushed pistachios can be used as a garnish.

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