“GAJAR KA HALWA” – PERFECT WINTER DESSERT!
One of the most quintessential Punjabi desserts and a true winter comfort food as this Indian pudding screams love, care, tradition and calories!!
I have fond memories of this dessert simmering in our home kitchen with delicious aromas of carrots, ghee and green cardamom wafting through the house. This famous carrot pudding is a must on wedding menus and festival spreads but is equally often cooked in homes to enjoy with a cup of tea as a little treat in winter months. Gajar Ka Halwa made using a combination of milk, carrots, ghee, nuts and cardamom powder. Carrots peak in the winter season in India and there is a special variety called ‘Red Delhi Carrots’ or the ‘Desi Carrots’ that have a distinct red colour. They are known for their sweetness, crunchy texture and are considered to be the best for this dessert. My recipe uses supermarket carrots and to make up for the lack of colour (given they are a bit orangy) I add a little saffron which not only infuses aroma but also adds natural colour & flavour.
Halwa finds its roots in the Arabic language and originally halwa was a flour-based dessert cooked using various nuts with sugar, milk and butter to create a hardened nutty dessert. Legend has it that the Sikhs from Punjab introduced Gajar ka Halwa to the house of Mughals. When carrots were originally introduced to India in the 17th Century through trade, the province of Punjab apparently took an instant liking to them and started developing innovative new recipes both sweet and savoury.
This dessert is a real crowd pleaser and you can make a big batch well in advance as it can be easily reheated. Any leftovers can be enjoyed the following day warmed up in a pan until it starts caramelizing on the edges – this goes down a treat in our household and we usually end up fighting over the crusty bits. Cherishing a bowl of warm Gajar Ka Halwa in my hands accompanied with a cup of Masala Chai can only be the start of a great year!
- Use a good quality whole milk for a rich and sweet flavour
- Cook with fresh, tender and juicy carrots
- Use a heavy bottom pan to cook the halwa to ensure it does not catch at the bottom
- Use can also nuts like pistachios and cashewnuts to garnish and even add a handful of green raisins to the halwa while it’s simmering
- Carrots must first be grated and then fried in a little ghee before adding to the milk
- I like using sugar on the lower side as the dish has a natural sweetness from the carrots too
Carrots – 1 kg, peeled and grated
Milk – 1.5 litres
Sugar – 8 tbsp, golden caster or white sugar
Desi ghee – 5 tbsp
Cardamom powder – 1½ tsp
Almonds (soaked in warm water) – handful roughly chopped
Saffron – a few strands (dissolved in warm milk)
Add milk to a heavy bottom pan and bring to a full boil. Simmer on low heat and keep stirring in between until the milk has reduced by 75%.
Meanwhile in a separate pan add 3 tbsp of ghee and fry grated carrots on medium heat for 15-20 mins to reduce moisture.
Once the milk is reduced, add the remaining ghee, sugar, cardamom powder and saffron followed by grated carrots. Mix well and simmer until all the milk is evaporated.
Lastly, garnish the halwa with nuts of your choice and serve hot or lukewarm.