Come winters, what is it that we all look forward to, apart from the much needed relief from the Indian summers? Gajar! Why? So we can make our all time favorite, classic dessert…Gajar ka Halwa/ Carrot Halwa. The carrots used to make this dessert are seasonal in India, and hence are available only during winters. In the US, these are found all year round.(lucky them )
The carrots used in this dessert are different from the regular carrots that we use for cooking. These are longer, and have a deeper pinkish orange color that differentiates it from the regular carrot. It is also much sweeter in taste that makes this the obvious choice for this dessert. You can also use the regular carrot for this dessert, but then you will have to increase the sugar content to make up for the lack of natural sweetness. And trust me, nothing beats the real thing!
This is one of those desserts that require very few ingredients, namely, Carrots/Gajar, Milk, Sugar, Ghee and Nuts. But over time, people have modified these ingredients to save on time and enhance the flavours; by adding, Mava or Condensed milk. But I prefer to stick to the traditional basics.
This dessert can be had cold, warm or even piping hot just off the stove! 😉 That’s how I like it, because I cannot wait to dig into it, with the divine aroma wafting all around my kitchen. Everyone have their own preferences.
In spite of loving this dessert, I used to think twice before making it, as it usually takes a lot of time to prepare…3-4 hours minimum! I remember the time when I used to slog at the stove for hours together just to get to have this incredible dessert. But then, my neighbor, a lady I refer to as my ‘Side-Door aunty’ (why? Because she lives next door to me! Yes…I know… I can be very literal that way!) – gave me a tip that reduced the cooking time of this dessert to just one hour flat! Can’t believe it? Believe it!!! Initially even I was skeptical, but once I tried it out, I swear by it. And it isn’t any shortcut that is not traditional. No microwaving…no cooker…no condensed milk and stuff like that!! This recipe is traditional method through and through.
The simple yet essential tip is to basically grate the carrot/gajar real fine and then squeeze out the juice of the grated carrot.(this is where I usually take the help of the men of the house, who claim to be all muscle; not that I really need their help. But why not fan their ego a bit to make my job easier :P) After squeezing out the juice, the carrot pulp is then roasted in ghee to loose the raw carrot taste. This helps the gajar get caramelized sooner and hence the dessert gets done sooner. In my earlier method, the roasting used to happen towards the end of the recipe, and that’s why it took way too long; as the moisture in the carrot used to prevent it from getting caramelized soon.
And if you think I am going to throw away the carrot juice, think again! I am not throwing any of the carrot/gajar goodness away. I just incorporate it into the dessert at a much later stage.
Read on to find the step-by-step instructions to make this timeless dessert!
- Gajar/Carrot – 1 kg (grated fine and juice squeezed and kept aside)
- Sugar – 250gms (feel free to lessen or increase the quantity according to your taste)
- Milk – 1 liter (can add more if required) (full fat preferred)
- Ghee/clarified butter– 250gms (reduce the quantity if you want to keep this recipe healthy)
- Assorted Nuts – two handfuls- chopped (avoid using walnuts as it tends to taste bitter)
- Cardamom/Elaichi powder – ½ tsp
- Pistachio – for garnishing
- Clean the carrot well and peel it and grate it super fine.
- Squeeze out the juice of the carrot by squeezing it in your fist.
- Save the squeezed out juice in a separate bowl (Do not skip step 1 and 2, if you want this dessert to get done in an hour)
- Take a large wide mouthed thick-bottomed pan/kadai on low flame and put in the ghee. I use a non-stick pan, as it helps in the dessert not sticking to the bottom and sides when getting done.
- Now add the chopped nuts and fry them till light golden brown.
- Once the nuts are done, take them out with a slotted spoon and keep it aside.
- Now put in the carrot pulp, of which all the juice has been squeezed out, and roast it on medium-high flame, till it gets slightly caramelized and turns darker in colour.
- Now add the sugar, milk and cardamom powder. The rule of thumb is to add milk enough to just submerge the carrot pulp. Adding more milk will just make the dessert creamier, so no harm. But adding less milk will make the dessert taste too carroty! 😉
- Now keep the pan on medium high heat and let it boil, by mixing it in 10min intervals and scraping down the sides and bottom of the pan.
- Once the mixture starts reducing in quantity, add the squeezed out carrot juice and mix well, till it too starts evaporating.
- Once the mixture almost dries out, increase the heat to high and constantly turn the mixture around with a spatula/spoon, as it tends to stick to the pan at this stage.
- Keep on roasting the mixture till the ghee starts leaving the sides of the mixture. (This is a sign that the dessert is almost done.)
- Now add the fried nuts to the mixture and roast it for a few more minutes.
- The dessert is done once the moisture in the mixture is completely evaporated.
- Now take the mixture off the stove and garnish with the chopped pistachio.
- Grate the Gajar/carrot very fine
- Squeeze out the juice and keep it aside
- Use a wide mouthed thick bottomed pan, preferably a non stick pan
- Add a pinch of salt if you want to cut the sweetness. (I always add a pinch of salt to my desserts)
- If using mawa/khova/dried whole milk cream, reduce the milk quantity to ½ liter.
- If using condensed milk, reduce the milk and sugar quantity.
So here you go, the recipe that takes literally an hour to make. I know it sounds too good to be true, but give it a shot. No more slogging at the stove. Even you will be amazed at how easy and quick it is to make it.
You can modify/add ingredients in this recipe any way you choose; to enhance the taste…not that it needs any! So make it, eat it and if you love it, lemme know. 🙂