Me to my mom: "What? You are making gajar ka halwa AGAIN? What's the point of making something that reduces so much in quantity? Such a waste. Waste of time, money, energy, food. You should make desserts that require less ingredients but double in volume or size."
My mom to me: "Can you just keep quiet, stir the halwa one time and go?"
I am all about frugal living and smart spending. Not stingy. Frugal means economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful (source: dictionary.com). And gajar ka halwa seemed wasteful to me. Tons of carrots and milk should give me tons of carrot pudding. But it does not. It shrinks.
Gajar ka halwa (dense carrot pudding) is one of the most popular Indian desserts and probably the most popular halwa served - at weddings, on special occasions, at dinners, or in restaurants. Many people make carrot halwa using evaporated milk, condensed milk, half n half or heavy cream in order to speed up the process instead of using whole milk which is traditionally cooked for a long time until it reduces and thickens. But I do not stock up on evaporated milk, condensed milk, half n half or heavy cream and find it easier to make carrot halwa using whole milk any day since I always have all the ingredients on hand. And I am never running out of carrots, thanks to Costco.
Gajar ka Halwa Recipe (Carrot Halwa: Dense Carrot Pudding)
Ingredients for Carrot Halwa
2 tsp ghee (how to make clarified butter at home)
2 cup packed grated carrots
3½ cups hot whole milk
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp regular white granulated sugar
¼ tsp elaichi (cardamom) powder
2 Tbsp broken cashew pieces
2 Tbsp raisins
How I make Carrot Halwa
1. Peel and grate carrots. The shredding blade in Cuisinart food processor makes the work so much easier.
2. Heat milk in a saucepan on medium heat. Meanwhile on another flame, heat a medium deep pan on medium heat, add 1 tsp ghee. Sauté the cashews and raisins in this ghee and keep aside. Then add the grated carrots and sauté for two minutes.
3. Add hot milk to the carrots and stir gently. You can choose to stir it constantly on medium heat so that the milk does not scorch and stick to the bottom of the pan. Or you can leave it on low heat, and come around to stir once in a while.
4. Milk has to reduce and thicken, and could take 30-40 minutes for this quantity.
5. If you did not have cashews and raisins ready at the start or forgot to sauté before, while the carrots and milk cook you have ample time to sauté them in a separate small pan with a few drops of ghee. You could choose to add broken cashews and raisins as is, but I like them a little toasted. Keep aside.
6. As shows in picture 6, that is how much the carrots and milk have to shrink and thicken from what they started out with. At this point you should add sugar + cardamom powder + cashew and raisins and mix for two minutes. As sugar melts, it will soften the thickened carrot and milk mixture. Do NOT add sugar earlier otherwise it will take a long time until this carrot pudding gets dense. Once it has mixed well and the consistency of carrot halwa looks good - switch off the heat.
You have 1 tsp ghee remaining, remember? My mom says to add this just at the end and give the gajar ka halwa a gentle mix. She said it adds a little shine to the halwa. You can choose to skip this if you wish. Feel free to add pistachios or almonds too if you wish.
Transfer a warm gajar ka halwa in a big serving bowl for self-serve, or scoop the halwa into individual bowls, or press it in a small pretty container and invert onto a plate. Garnish carrot halwa with a piece of whole cashew nut, or place slivered pistachios/almonds in the center. Carrot halwa is best enjoyed warm.
Five years later today, taking my mom by surprise, I am gladly making gajar ka halwa because my husband loves and enjoys it. I am not complaining even once about how so many carrots and so much milk reduce to such a little quantity and how after half an hour of stirring the carrot halwa wastes my time and energy.
Because now I understand why my mom lovingly cooked time-consuming and quantity-reducing Indian desserts like (rabdi, or) carrot halwa: it is totally worth the effort when you see your loved ones happily relishing it.
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