The winter season in North India ushers in a variety of special foods and sweets that are not found in other seasons. One of our favorites is called “gajar ka halwa.” Gajar is the Hindi word for carrot, and halva originates in the Arabic language and means “sweet.”
This dessert was introduced during the Mughal period of history and has continued to be popular in North India and Pakistan. Red carrots are available in the cool months, which adds fun color to this dessert! In this recipe, a large cooking pot called a kadai is used. It is similar in shape to a wok. Assuming a kadai is not available, use a thick bottomed pan.
- First rinse, peel, and grate 8-9 medium sized tender juicy carrots.
- In a kadai or wok, add all of the grated carrots.
- Pour four cups of full fat milk (whole milk).
- Stir the grated carrots and milk and keep the kadai on the stove.
- Cook this mixture on a low to medium flame. The milk will start frothing and start reducing slowly.
- Keep stirring the milk/carrot mixture. Scrape the sides of the pan to remove the milk solids and mix them back into the halva
- After the mixture reduces by 75%, add 4 tablespoons of clarified butter (in India, ghee is often used). There will still be some milk when the butter is added.
- Add 10-12 tablespoons of sugar.
- Add 1/3 tablespoon of cardamom powder.
- Stir and continue to simmer on a low flame until mixture starts to thicken and reduce. Stir at intervals.
- When the halva has reduced a lot, and you see just a little milk (like that of a pudding consistency) add 20-25 whole cashews and a handful of golden raisins. (recipe also calls for a pinch of saffron strands, if available)
- Continue to stir and simmer until the whole mixture becomes dry. The milk should evaporate completely, and you will see fine milk solids in the halva. Remember to keep scraping the milk solids off the side of the pan back into the halva. Some moisture is okay in the halva.
- Serve warm and enjoy!