Happiness is all about the simple joys of life and one of my little joys is this carrot halwa. I can’t get through the winter without it. Unlike many ingredients I grew up with, I have no problem finding vivid red Indian carrots in the UK. Lucky me, because when it comes to puds I like none better than the humble gajar ka halwa or gajracha shira. My preferred way to cook it is by slowly caramelising the bright red roots with milk and sugar. The finished dish, dotted with ghee-roasted nuts and toasted melon seeds, glistens as it exudes the aroma of gooey carrots and cardamom, creating a play of unctuous flavour sensations. Pulling off this magical transformation just needs time and patience. You can’t rush a halwa, but I’m pretty sure you’ll agree it’s time well spent when you finally get to taste it.
Sweet memories of Mum making this on a cold and sunny wintery afternoon come rushing back whenever I make this pud. Back when I was growing up in India, ‘gajar ka halwa’ was a rarity and needed a gentle nudge from me whenever Delhi’s red carrots flooded the markets of Pune. She would gladly oblige as everyone in the family loved it. She would do it all – from grating the carrots to slow cooking them for almost an hour, whilst I looked on patiently with gleaming eyes. This dessert was a little joy of life even as a child and, to this day, it still is. Once served, it was always followed by silence as we scoffed down this unctuous dessert and immersed ourselves in the pure glory of the caramelised silken strands of red carrots.
Gajar Ka Halwa / Carrot HalwaCourse: DessertCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Medium
500g grated carrots (ideally red Indian carrots)
½ litre whole milk
2 tbsp ghee
250g caster sugar (ideally unrefined)
8-10 cashew nuts
25g melon seeds
10-12 green raisins or golden sultanas (ideally preservative-free)
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 pinch of saffron soaked in 25 ml lukewarm milk
1 tsp ghee to roast the nuts
6-8 whole almonds (optional)
- Wash, peel and grate the carrots.
- Roast the cashews with the ghee, in a frying pan, until golden over a low to medium flame and set aside.
- Toast the melon seeds for a minute over a low to medium flame in a dry pan. Set aside.
- Tip in the grated carrots into a wide heavy-bottomed pan over a medium flame along with the milk. Bring it to a boil then simmer gently for 45 minutes over a low to medium flame whilst stirring regularly. The grated carrots will absorb the milk. The milk will reduce and evaporate.
- Add the saffron soaked in milk.
- Stir in the roasted nuts and toasted melon seeds as well as half of the ground cardamom.
- Mix in the sugar followed by the ghee. Pop the lid on and simmer until all the milk is absorbed.
- Serve hot with vanilla ice cream