Carrot halwa is an Indian dessert made of grated carrots, whole milk, cream, pure ghee, sugar, cardamom, almonds and cashewnuts.
There is no word in English for 'halwa'. I realized this when I was trying to translate 'gajar ka halwa' into English. I couldn't proceed beyond 'gajar' which obviously means carrot. For some words, of course, there are no English equivalents, but it still came as a slight surprise. So, I'll try my best to describe it to you.
There are lots of varieties of halwa but the one common thing among all of them is that these are very dense desserts made by cooking the main ingredient (in this case, carrot) in milk first and then roasting it in pure ghee (clarified butter) and sugar. Other goodies are added, but by and large, this is the basic technique of making halwa.
At this point, a little bluntness is in order ;)
Traditional Indian desserts are not for the faint-hearted. (Did you wince already at the ingredients?) This carrot halwa is not for you if you want something quick and light and healthy. No sir, it's not any of those things. It's a seriously sweet confection that's got loads of sugar and fat (not more than your average chocolate bar though). But, have it once and your senses are going to explode in delight, I can promise you that! It's that intensely addictive combination of milk, sugar and pure ghee that creates the magic. However, as I always say, if you behave yourself and eat healthy MOST of the time, you can indulge ONCE in a while.
I don't make carrot halwa more than once or twice in a year, usually around the festive season. When I do, everyone at my place goes berserk. Yes, it's that good :)
1. Grate the carrots and keep aside. Grind the almonds and cashewnuts together in two tablespoons milk or water and keep aside.
2. Pour milk in a large and heavy Dutch oven and add grated carrots. Cook on medium heat until all the milk is absorbed by the carrots. (1 to 1.5 hours)
3. Melt ghee in a pan and add cardamom and cloves. After one minute, pour this spice-infused ghee in the carrot-milk mixture.
4. Add sugar, cream, cardamom powder, coconut powder and the ground almonds and cashews. Roast on medium to high heat till the carrots turn dark and glossy. (1 hour)
5. Garnish with slivered almonds and coconut flakes.
Cooked carrots in milk
1. Don't leave the carrot and milk mixture unattended for prolonged periods. You can let go for a few minutes; there's enough liquid in there to cook on its own for some time. But do check and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon every now and then!
2. Pure ghee is available in Indian stores. It is semi-solid at room temperature. Measure 1.5 cups of ghee in this semi-solid state, and make sure to pack it tightly in the cups to give an accurate measure.