One of the all time favorite Indian sweets is Gajar Halwa, aka carrot pudding, of a sort. I don’t make it as much as I like it as it’s a pain to stir reducing milk, and I don’t like the taste of the easy way out i.e. the one made with mawa or milk solid. The proof isn’t just in the pudding, but in stirring the pudding.
It’s something about the aromas you get while you cook it and the satisfaction of making it from scratch, there is nothing better in terms of a heart warming, all year around dessert. It can be eaten hot or cold. Personally, I like it chilled and lately with coffee, the sound of which may be utterly bizarre to my Indian family and friends, but do try it! I recently made some for friends and decided to make a bigger batch, so it would last beyond one meal!
This is the way my mother taught me, and is a bit different than other Indian recipes I have come across. The most important part is not adding sugar till the end. If you add sugar before the milk is soaked up, the halwa tends to get too syrupy, which is what you find in most Indian restaurants. Also, you don’t need much ghee. I’ve seen recipes that pile up the ghee in the name of flavor, but it is really not necessary as the milk creates the richness you need as it evaporates.
The more finely grated the carrots, the better the texture in my opinion, but texture is really matter of personal taste. I tend to make mine with unrefined sugar, and sweetness can vary based on the sweetness of the carrots, so taste it after the sugar is dissolved and adjust to your liking. I would say, give yourself a few hours total to make halwa; I always make it at night after everything else is out of the way… Make way for some halwa!
3 cups fresh, finely grated carrots
6 cups warm whole milk (or 2 cups evaporated milk)
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
3/4 cup sugar
8-10 thinly sliced almonds
8-10 thinly sliced pistachios
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom powder
a pinch of saffron (optional)
1. In a thick sauce pan, melt the ghee.
2. Add carrots and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Add warm milk and stir often, till the mixture thickens and ALL the milk is soaked up. Do NOT let it stick to the bottom of the pan! It’s lot of work stirring this one, but it’s worth it!
4. Add sugar, saffron, and stir some more, till the water from the sugar evaporates. As the halwa starts to come together, it leaves the sides of the pan and gets richer in color.
5. Add cardamom and mix it in properly.
6. Top it off with the nuts, and it’s ready to serve warm.
7. You can also let it cool off to room temperature, add nuts, cover and refrigerate, to later scoop it out cold. You can easily re-heat and serve as well.