It is difficult to not think of something sweet in time for one of biggest sweet days of the year – Valentine’s Day. In keeping with the times and the season, today I shall be sharing one of the classic winter desserts from North India. The Gajar Halwa or the carrot fudge pudding is all amount slow cooked goodness, indulgence and cooking with patience and love.
If you have the patience to spend a few hours (yes, at least 2 hours) around your kitchen nursing this beautiful creation and you are feeling adventurous this Valentine ’s Day, then this is the dessert for you. By the way, this dessert is fairly rich as is, since it is made with milk cooked with carrots to a thick fudge like state with fragrant cardamom, finished with clarified butter, raisins and pistachios. If you want to indulge the way they do at Indian weddings you can top this with vanilla ice-cream. The melting coolness of the ice-cream gives way to warm soft creamy seductiveness of the smooth carroty goodness of the dessert.
If you want some of the concept without all the effort, you can try my beetroot version, here.
To be fair, the ingredients are few it is mostly about patience to actually cook down the milk to the thick creamy milk solids that we call khoya. This technique of slow cooking milk is used in a lot of Indian dessert so a good thing to understand.
Before you tell me, I cannot improvise here is a vegan version of the dessert that I made about a year back. So, with all the bases covered here is the recipe.
A classic Indian winter dessert, made with carrots, milk, cardamoms, pistachios and raisins.
- ½ gallon whole milk
- 11/2 pound of fresh whole carrots (do not use baby carrots for this recipe)
- 4 cardamoms bruised
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup raisins (try to use mixed raisins, they add a nice contrast)
- ¼ cup pistachios and some for garnishing
- 6 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- In a heavy bottomed pan with a wide mouth (a heavy wok is perfect for this), pour the milk and bring to a boil.
- In the meantime, peel and grate the carrots. I like the texture of hand grating, however if you want to save time you can use a food processor.
- Turn down the heat and add the carrots to the milk. Eventually the milk should reach a brisk simmer. The goal is to cook the milk down without burning it, so it is optimal to play around with the heat until you get the best evaporation level without having to nurse this constantly for 3 hours. I usually settle for a medium low temperature and do some work near the stove. Every 10 minutes or so, I stop by and remove the thick skin that forms over the milk and mix it in.
- About 1 and 40 minute of this process you will get a fairly thick almost pudding or fudge like texture. Add in the sugar and stir well and add in the raisins and nuts.
- Cook this until the mixture is fairly dry and the color is almost darker, you should see less of the milk solids at this point.
- Add in the clarified butter and cook until the mixture is sort of dry.
- Serve hot or warm garnished with additional pistachios. This can be refrigerated and heated just before serving.
Rinku Bhattacharya is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Cooking in Westchester, where she shares her life experiences and original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years, and her newly released cookbook the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles, highlights and offers many simple recipes from Eastern India. Rinku can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest