One of the most popular Indian desserts and a traditional dish for Diwali. The recipe originated in the Punjab and features grated carrots, milk, sugar and nuts.
Diwali is the Hindu new year, also known as the festival of lights. It is the celebration of health, wealth and prosperity in the hope of having a happy new year. Similar to Christmas, people decorate their homes with flowers, lights and diyas (candles). Later in the evening, a puja (prayer) is performed for Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. Family and friends share sweets during the celebration of Diwali.
Gajar ka halwa is a traditional sweet served at this time.
There are many types of halwa in Indian cuisine. Although we speak of Punjabi origin, this is an Arab dish, brought to India by the Mughuls. It has now become ubiquitous throughout India and other places that originate from Indian heritage.
When cooking halwa the texture is important. Arab halwa (or halva) is much drier and has the consistency of nougat. Indian halwa is moister, with the consistency of jam. You need to cook this a few times to get it right. Basically, the mixture will thicken after cooking, so be careful not to overcook.
Purists will argue about the use of condensed milk against boiling down full cream milk. This recipe will produce a great halwa without hours of reduction of the milk.
How you present this dish will depend of the circumstances. You may garnish with cashews, pistachios, almonds, mint leaves or vark – edible silver leaf – or all of the above. You may serve it as part of a thali, or as a dessert on its own.
This book will feature several different forms of halwa, using different base ingredients.
Heat ghee in a thick-bottomed deep pan. Add whole cashews and fry until cashews take on a golden colour. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the grated carrots to the ghee and fry, stirring often until they turn tender and are cooked, but not too coloured.
Add the condensed milk and stir well until combined. Bring to simmer, then add the ground cardamom, jaggery and chopped cashews. Mix well.
Simmer mixture, stirring often until reduced to half its original volume and is adhering together. When cooked remove from heat.
The halwa can be served hot, warm or cold. Garnish with fried cashews to serve.