Carrot Halwa. One of Inida's most adored traditional desserts despite being fairly ubiquitous. An easy and versatile dessert made practically in every home and restaurant. Effortlessly goes from homey to rich and richer to suit individual preferences. But hardly ever fails to please! Not surprisingly, even mothers in our Bollywood movies make Gajar Ka Halwa so often. Its a favorite comfort dessert during winter, a convenient make ahead sweet dish for guests. Grated carrots slowly cooked in milk, sugar and ghee, garnished liberally with nuts, fragrant with cardamom and saffron. What's not to love?
Carrot halwa is one of those 'safe' desserts which requires very little by way of technique nor needs you to spend a great deal of time. So even if you are a reluctant cook, you can easily win a thumbs up for your first attempt at it. Unless of course you burn it while you are busy WhatsApping or Instagramming about the halwa during its last few minutes on the stove! With the festival of lights around the corner, how about trying this simple dessert if you haven't tried your hand at it yet? I like it less rich, not very sweet. If you do not approve, tweak it every possible way and we will still remain friends.
So what we do is cook the carrots in a lot of milk till it is reduced and absorbed quite a bit to make a creamy halwa. You could cook the carrots in a pressure cooker or microwave but then it would not taste quite the same. If you ask me that is.
Ingredients - To make about 6 servings, half cup each
Grated carrots - 4 cups ( 1/2 kg approximately)
Ghee - 4 tablespoons or more as desired (divided use)
Cashew nuts - 1/4 cup, broken or halved
Whole milk (3.5%) - 4 cups / 1 liter (no low fat please!)
Sugar - 6-7 tablespoons
Saffron - a generous pinch
Crushed cardamom - 1/2 teaspoon
Method : Peel and wash the carrots. Grate them using a grater with medium sized holes, measure. Soak the saffron in a teaspoon of warm milk. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Fry the cashew nuts till golden, drain and keep aside. Add the carrots to the remaining ghee and saute for a couple of minutes on low heat.
Add the milk and cook on medium heat. Stir occasionally. The carrots will soften and cook as the milk reduces slowly. Keep scraping back the milk solids which accumulate at the sides of the pan back into the halwa. This will give it more richness.
Cook about 20 minutes. When there is still about 1/4 cup of milk left, add the sugar. Start with 6 tablespoons, add more if needed. The mixture will turn more liquid. Continue to cook, stirring often till you don't see any more thin milk at the bottom of the pan. About 10-15 minutes. It will be homogeneous and will come together in a nice mass. You can either let it remain slightly pudding like or let the moisture evaporate some more. In the pictures here, the moisture has been absorbed quite a bit. No I wasn't Instagramming, just another variation I did not quite relish. I like my halwa very moist and creamy.
Stir in the soaked saffron, nuts, ghee and cardamom. Cook for a couple of minutes, turn off the heat. Best eaten warm.
Time to bring out the diyas, the fairy lights and candles. Isn't it sheer joy just to behold the beauty of something as simple as light? Hope this Diwali brings you a lot of happiness, have a happy and safe one!