This year, for the first time in a very long time, we are celebrating the festive season in full swing. Avyan is at an age where he can understand these things and he is also thoroughly enjoying it. Yesterday, we had a Diwali Potluck Party at our home and it was a blast. There were a wide variety of delicious treats and I really wish I had taken a photo of the entire spread! My contribution to the spread was Gajar Halwa (Carrot Pudding) and Moong Daal Khasta Kachori (Spiced Mung Bean Stufffed Flaky Dumplings).
While growing up, Diwali for me was all about busting crackers and helping Mom lighting diyas (little oil lamps). All the glitters and shimmers, everyone wearing new outfits, the feeling was something that is not easy to describe in words! Then, there was the array of Diwali treats that she would start prepping for almost a week in advance. However, Mom never made Gajar Halwa that often. It would be mostly payesh or sondesh. For Arvind, Gajar Halwa is a must during Diwali and I wanted to make it for him. He has a huge sweet tooth and with all these traditional desserts, he prefers the classic version without any twists.
What is Gajar Halwa ?
Sprinkled with raisins and cashews, infused with the aroma of cardamom and ghee, Gajar Halwa is one of the most popular Indian sweets. Gajar meaning carrot and Halwa meaning pudding is also a winter welcoming delicacy. Traditionally, grated carrots are slow cooked in whole milk by frequent stirring until the carrot softens and turns into this creamy deliciousness. To fasten the process, most people lean towards either condensed milk or evaporated milk. I like to go with evaporated milk only because condensed milk makes it overly sweet and takes away the taste of carrot.
In terms of nuts, I stick to cashew and raisins but you could also use almonds or pistachio.
One KEY POINT to remember is that while preparing the pudding, add sugar only after the carrots are almost softened. Adding sugar in the beginning will slow down the softening the grated carrots.
Gajar Halwa might need some effort but at the end, it always feels so worth it. You can wow your guest easily with this creamy rich lusciousness.
- 2 lb orange carrots
- 3 tablespoons ghee
- 5 green cardamoms
- 24 oz/ 710ml evaporated milk
- 16 oz/ 473 ml whole milk
- 1½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup cashew
- Peel and grate the carrots using the big holes or a box grater.
- Place a heavy bottom pan at medium heat and pour the ghee followed by crushed cardamoms. Let the cardamom sizzle for a few seconds and then, add the grated carrots. Toss it around to coat the carrot in ghee and keep stirring for 5 minutes until the carrot cooks a little and changes its color to a vibrant orange.
- Pour the milk and evaporated milk, stir around and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Stir very frequently as it cooks and softens.
- After 30 minutes, the carrots should be pretty much cooked through. The milk shouldn’t be completely absorbed but reduced. If not, cook for some more time. If the milk is almost absorbed, add a little more milk.
- Once the carrots are cooked though, add the sugar, raisins and cashew. Stir around and cook for 5 more minutes or until the milk is almost absorbed. Check for sugar and if you prefer it much sweeter, add more sugar and cook for a while.
- Allow the gajar halwa to cool down a little. Sprinkle more cashews on top and serve.