Gajar Ka Halwa
Although I started this year off more healthily than the last one ended, my first recipe is a dessert. That’s because the first dinner of the year, where I served this, has already come and gone, an Indian dinner with friends who haven’t visited in a long time. And this is how it came about.
In November last year, I persuaded my sister to attend an Indian cookery class with me. It was my second and her first, and it was a four hour evening course at the adult education center. The name of the course was “Indian dinner with butter chicken.” Butter chicken is one of my sister’s favourite dishes, which was actually the only reason I was able to persuade her to attend.
At the courses I took over the years participants were paired up and had to volunteer for cooking one of the five or six dishes the course included. So I told my sister when the question came up who wanted to do what that she was at no cost to sign up for cooking the rice. Because, seriously, I was not taking an Indian cookery class to learn to cook rice. The pleasant surprise in this class, though, was that everyone got to cook everything. That really made my evening.
While the teacher, a lovely woman from the Punjab, walked around, helped people out, and checked on the state of things that were cooking, she came up to us, smiled and asked if we were sisters. We confirmed we were, and next she pointed at me and said: “You’re the one doing the cooking at home, though, right!?” Hehe. My sister grinned and told her that only the reward of eating butter chicken had gotten her there. When we finally got to eating that night, my sister was a happy bunny but stated that she’d be expecting me to make the butter chicken from here on out.
If you haven’t eaten gajar ka halwa before – this dessert is not what you’d probably expect from reading the list of ingredients. My guests were totally surprised to realise they were eating carrots cooked in milk and sugar, even though you could see they were grated carrots. I would describe it as a mild dessert, pleasantly sweet but by no means too sweet. It’ll also keep for a couple of days in the fridge. According to our teacher, in her home country they eat this dessert warm in winter and cold in summer. We had it kind of lukewarm, which tasted perfect.
Just on a side note: This dish has few ingredients, but it needs constant stirring.
Gajar Ka Halwa
400 g carrots
400 ml full fat milk
50 g sugar
3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
½ tsp green cardamom powder
1 tbsp walnuts
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
Peel carrots and remove any stringy bits, then grate them. [I used a coarse grater.]
Heat milk in a pot or wok until it gets to the boiling point, then add the grated carrots. [Make sure to use a non-stick pan - teflon or enamel, otherwise the risk of a burnt pan bottom is quite high!] Cook at medium heat, and stir frequently until the milk has almost evaporated.
Once the carrots have thickened, add the sugar and mix well. Reduce temperature and stir until any liquid has evaporated completely.
Add the ghee and roast for 10 minutes, take off the heat and stir in the cardamom powder. Leave to cool down.
Transfer the dessert into a serving bowl and garnish with broken-up walnut pieces and coconut.