My first taste of Gajar Halwa (translation: Carrot Pudding) came from the lunch buffet at Bombay Bistro in Cool Springs. It was pretty much an earth-shattering experience for me.
Before then, if you had told me that I would fall in love with a dessert that seemed to be just a bowl of mushy, shredded carrots, I would’ve thought you were crazy.
But on that day, I was immediately dazzled by the flavors and textures that hit my palate. In fact, I even flagged down our server and requested that the chef or manager be summoned to our table.
As the manager approached, it was evident that he was bracing himself for a complaint. No sir, no complaints here. All I wanted to do was compliment him on that ridiculously amazing dish!
I’ve been enamored with Indian food long before I married into an Indian family. (That last name of mine that no one can pronounce correctly? It’s Indian. My father-in-law hails from Uttar Pradesh in northern India.) However, I’ve never been a huge fan of the desserts, because pretty much all that I’ve sampled have just been way too sweet for my taste. That is, until I discovered Carrot Halwa.
The Sachan Clan at our wedding in 2008
So as Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, approaches on November 13th, I decided it was time for me to get motivated and learn how to make this delightful treat for myself. Though my husband and I have never celebrated Diwali, now that I have a son, I’d like for him to grow up knowing what it is since it’s a part of his heritage.
Perhaps we’ll create a new tradition, making this dish together each year in honor of the festival. A sweet (but not too sweet) tradition indeed!
Serves 6-8. Adapted from Indian Simmer.
2 Tbsp golden raisins
1 lb carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
2 Tbsp Ghee (clarified butter)*
1/2 cup of nuts (I used cashew halves)
1 cup whole milk
7 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Soak raisins in warm water for 30 minutes, then drain. Set aside for later use.
Heat ghee a large pan over medium high heat. Add nuts. When the nuts take on a golden color, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add grated carrots to the pan with remaining ghee. Cook for 1-2 minutes and then add milk.
Mix well, reducing heat to low and simmer until carrots are softened, approximately 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add condensed milk and stir well. Add sugar.
Stir every few minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of pan to prevent sticking. Allow carrot mixture to cook until all milk is evaporated, approximately 30-40 minutes.
Stir in cardamom, nuts and raisins. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly and serve.
* Already prepared, bottled ghee can be found locally in the ethnic section of several grocery stores. I purchased mine at Publix.
Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in South Asia and is commonly used in South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Pakistani, and Iranian cuisine) cuisine and ritual.
To prepare ghee, butter is melted in a pot over medium heat. The butter begins to melt, forming a white froth on top. It is then simmered stirring occasionally and the froth reduces slowly and the color of the butter changes to pale yellow. Then it is cooked on low heat until it turns golden. The residue settles at the bottom and the ghee, which is now clear, golden,translucent and fragrant, is ready. The ghee is then filtered and it solidifies when completely cool.Ghee has a long shelf-life and needs no refrigeration if kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation. The texture, color and taste of ghee depends on the source of the milk obtained and the duration of boiling. – Source: Wikipedia