Gajar Halwa (Carrot Halwa - An Indian Sweet)
During school days, in Mumbai, I would wait for winter season to begin (not that Mumbai ever really experiences winter), reason being, a small hotel, Gita Bhavan, used to make Gajar Halwa in the winter months. Every Sunday evening mum would take me to Gita Bhavan for my weekly quota of goodies. It’s strange how some memories always stay with us. Gita Bhavan closed down years ago but the memories, the fun moments spent with my crazy mum, live on in her heart and mine. Yes, you read right. I did say ‘crazy’ mum. Where else would I get my wackiness from? ;-)
When I moved to Pune to serve a life sentence, without parole (read: marriage), I had no clue where I would find Gajar Halwa as delicious as the one I used to eat at Gita Bhavan. Grumpy (read: husband), as usual, was no help at all. Sigh! In the early 90’s an aunt, knowing my love for Gajar Halwa, shared her recipe. When I used her recipe for the first time, I knew I had finally brought home that familiar taste of Gita Bhavan’s Gajar Halwa. Ever since, it’s been a sweet treat for the family during the winter months. As soon as carrots flood the market, the first thing Grumpy looks forward to is Gajar Halwa. In all honesty, I do too. Soft, rich, perfectly sweetened with crunchy dry fruits, it’s one of my favorite Indian sweets. Give this a try at home and rest assured you will never want to buy Gajar Halwa from a sweet/mithai shop ever again!
1¾ kilo carrots, peeled and grated
60 mils milk
1½ cups sugar
400 grams mava / khoya / milk solids, crumbled
21 tablespoons clarified butter / ghee
50 grams almonds, halved
50 grams pistachios, halved
50 grams cashew nuts, halved
1½ tablespoon clarified butter
2 sheets silver varq / edible sheets of silver
- Heat 1½ tablespoon clarified butter in a small
wok or frying pan. Fry the almonds, cashews and pistachios, separately,
till light brown. Remove the fried nuts on a plate.
- Add the grated carrots and milk into a pressure cooker.
- Close the cooker and bring it to full pressure, for one whistle, on high heat.
- Shut off the stove as soon as the whistle goes off and take the cooker off the hob.
- Lift the whistle lightly from the vent to release all the built up pressure.
- When all the pressure is released, open the
cooker and empty the contents of the cooker into a thick bottomed vessel.
- Put the vessel on high heat, add sugar.
- Cook till the liquid dries up. Stir
- Grate the mawa or mash it finely with a fork and
add it to the carrot mixture.
- Stir the carrots and mawa well to ensure that the mawa blends into the carrot mixture.
- Add clarified butter and cook, stirring constantly, until clarified butter separates.
- Add half the quantity of nuts to the carrot
- Remove the halwa in a serving dish, cover with silver varq and
garnished with remaining dry fruits. Serve!
- This can be directly cooked in a thick bottomed vessel instead of using the pressure cooker but when you can save on precious fuel/gas and reduce the cooking time without any compromise on taste, texture and flavor, I think it's the best way to go. If you do cook this directly in a vessel, you may need approximately 250 mils (or a wee bit more) of milk, instead of 60 mils to soften the carrots.
- The quantity of sugar can be adjusted to your liking. I used 1½ cups which I felt was perfect. It wasn’t bland and nor was it overly sweet.
- I love dry fruits in Mithai, actually I like dry fruits in just about anything, hence I went all out and used the quantity mentioned in the recipe. After all, if I'm making Mithai, I definitely don’t have low-calorie food as my agenda. ;-) The same goes for clarified butter. You can use as little as 7 tablespoons or go all the way up to 21 tablespoons. Go with what works best for you. Go in accordance to your dietary needs and dietary restrictions in regard to the dry fruits and the clarified butter.
- The halwa/mithai can be served at room temperature but it tastes best when served hot.
- If you don't have silver varg for garnish / decoration, feel free to do without it as it does not in any way alter the taste or texture of the halwa.
- For those of you who don't understand the word ‘halwa’ or ‘mithai’, it means sweet / sweetmeat. It’s quite similar to what is known in western countries as ‘fudge’.
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