Gajar Halva (Indian Carrot Halwa Dessert)
Halva means sweet in Arabic. India is home to many varieties of halva, and it can be found at almost all of our family gatherings.
This particular type is made with carrots. Lulu's aunt taught me how to make it. The base is a dense, sweet confection made of flour such as cream of wheat or garbanzo flour, nut butter such as tahini, or lentils like mung beans. My friend Carole, who is by the way the editor of the site, told me she loves this kind. Here's her feedback about carrot halva:
"Your halva was smoother [than the one I get at the restaurant], and at the same time more flavorful but more subtle, too. We loved it. I can't wait to see the recipe and what's involved. I have a sneaky feeling there's going to be more butter than I want to know about!"
I told Carole: "Well, don't be afraid, there are only two tablespoons of ghee". I prefer making it at home because the gajar halva found at restaurants tends to be too thin and cloyingly sweet. I suspect that the extra sweetness is used to conceal the lack of richness that one would expect from real gajar halva.
Gajar halva, like some Vietnamese desserts, is not always the most glamourous-looking sweet, but it is delicious. If you've never had it before, try making some at home. You will love it.
Yields: 8 servings15 carrots, approximately 4 cups, thightly packed
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons nuts (I used pistachio kernels)
Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods. Gather them in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
Peel the carrots. Trim the ends. Wash and grate them using a cheese grater.
Heat a deep saucepan. Add the shredded carrots, cardamom powder and milk. Bring the liquid to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 40-50 minutes until the carrots soften and the milk evaporates completely. It might take a bit longer.
Sweeten the carrots with sugar. Increase the temperature to the highest setting. Stir constantly to prevent the carrots from burning. Add the ghee and the saffron threads. Cook for another 15 minutes.
Place the pistachio kernels in the mortar and pestle and coarsely grind them. Sprinkle the pistachio powder over the carrot halva.
Enjoy it with a hot cup of masala chai.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
From Wikipedia, halva may also be made with numerous other ingredients, including sunflower seeds, various nuts, beans, lentils, and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, yams.
Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores. But if you don't have ghee, you can add butter instead to the halva.
I peel carrots with a Messermeister peeler. I think it's the best peeler. It's very sharp and makes very thin peels. It's also very useful for food decoration.
I used pistachios for a nice contrast of colors. The most common nuts used are blanched almonds, but you can use any other nuts such as cashews, pine nuts, walnuts or even omit the nuts if you have any allergies. You could also add coconut shavings if you'd like.
You can sweeten your halva with honey, hot sugar syrup or agave syrup if you don't want to use regular granulated sugar.
You can make a vegan version by substituting milk with combination of coconut milk and soy milk (or soy creamer) for a richer mouth feel, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk or any other non-dairy milk, and add margarine instead of butter.Published By: on August 10, 2009.