his delicious and classic Indian dessert is a huge favorite with dear hubs. The warm aroma of the sweet succulent carrots cooking in the milk with saffron, cardamom, all slowly cooking and simmering in pure homemade ghee fills my house with a wonderful pleasing and festive aroma that always draw him to the kitchen... always.
We Indians love our spices as well as sweets. Any celebration or happy occasion for that matter is definitely accompanied with sweets. There is a mushrooming of mithai shops and local halwais on every nook and corner wherever you go and there is usually such a variety of sweets that it is difficult to decide what you want to eat. Each part of India has its own sweet specialties and varieties so you can imagine how vast and expansive the world of Indian sweets can get.
Halwa, as it is popularly known in the the Indian subcontinent (mostly in the Northern, Western and Eastern part of India), is one such most common and one of the most favorite desserts. Halwa in general refers to any sweet pudding. It can be made with semolina, gram flour, lentils, nuts, fruits and even vegetables like carrot, pumpkin, bottle gourd with sugar, and ghee and garnished with nuts. India being such a diverse culture has multiple versions of halwa and even the same type is made differently in different homes.
One of the most popular and the most exotic one is the Gajar halwa. This is one dessert I find really needs a little TLC in the making but the end result is absolutley mind blowing--heaven in every spoon :D The main pain for me is the grating (thank god for hubby and his idea of buying a food processor). The next is picking up the right ingredients as I think a good quality ghee is absolutely necessary for that authentic aroma and taste. Saffron and cardamom when combined create magic -- then comes the slow cooking part with the simmering and waiting and then stirring some more. The praises that follow so very make it all well worth the effort. Mom always used to make it with mawa (dried milk solid) which gives a richer taste to the halwa. But if you don't have access to that you can skip it and it still taste like a million bucks (or you can see my note for making a quick-fix mawa at home).
Halwa forms an integral part of the religious ceremonies and are usually served after the prayers are over, as a part of the “prasad” or food offered to God. Mom always used to make this specific gajar halwa on Diwali (the festival of lights).
This is another family recipe which I am sharing with you and let you enjoy it while I enjoy a warm bowlful here as I write this.
Carrots ..................................... 10-12 medium peeled and grated (1 pound)
Ghee(Clarified Butter) .................. 4 tbsp
Evaporated Milk or whole milk ......... 2 cup
Green Cardamom Powder................ 1/2 tsp
Raisin, Nuts ................................ 1/4 cup
Saffron ..................................... 1/2 tsp soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk (optional)
Khoya/Mawa .............................. 1/2 cup
Sugar ....................................... 3/4 cup or to taste
1. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat ghee on medium heat and saute the raisins and nuts till the raisins are plump, take out and set aside. In the same pan, add the carrot and cook stirring for 4-5 minutes.
2. Add in the milk/evaporated milk and cook on medium heat till the carrots are tender but not mushy till the milk dries up about 10-12 min. Add in the saffron.
3. Add in the khoya and sugar, cook for 3-4 minutes till mixed properly. Add in the cardamom powder and nuts and cook till the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan. Serve warm. ENJOY!
1. Here's a cool trick. If you do not have khoya handy, making it at home can be a little time consuming. A nice and quick way to make khoya is to use ricotta cheese. In a heavy bottom pan, on medium heat melt one tbsp ghee, add 15 oz pack of ricotta and cook while stirring till it thickens and starts to caramelize at the bottom, about 25 to 30 minutes. There you have it, your quick and easy (and relatively inexpensive) khoya :) It can be stored refrigerated for up to a week.