As the cooler months approach, we crave the usual warming winter foods recipes. But since winters are short and intense, they bring with them craving for sugary tea and buttery, sweet, slow-cooked halwa. A soothing and warming gajar ka halwa are one the winter delight. Grated carrots simmered in milk and concentrated to get a rich and creamy dessert. Sweetened with sugar and topped with some cashews and pistachios.
Carrots are indigenous to Afghanistan since 5000 years ago. The original variety of carrots were purple. Then came the red, yellow, black and a few other colors and finally, the most common orange-colored variety was cultivated. It is believed that in the 17th century, Dutch scientists cultivated an orange variety due to some experiments. Out of all the varieties, the red ones are crisper, juicier and saccharine. These red varieties, commonly known as desi gajar (carrots) are typical for India. Now, this is a seasonal delight that we get to enjoy every winter and due to its overly sweet nature is apt for making desserts.
Gajar Ka Halwa is associated with the Mughals. It is said that Punjabis introduced this to the Mughal courts and it instantly became popular with everyone. The emperors enjoyed its vibrant color, flowery aroma, and slightly chewy texture and it gained popularity far and wide-spreading sweetness throughout the empire. Carrots are simmered in milk and cooked until all the liquid is evaporated and the mixture concentrates and thickens. Then top them with nuts and enjoy them warm. This rich and creamy dessert is Gajar halwa (Gajrela).
Halwa is a sweet dish originated in Turkey. In Turkish etymology, Helva means a sweet which is usually dense and heavy. A confectionary made with flour, butter, and sugar. It is one of the oldest deserts in Turkey and it can be traced back to the 13th century where it has been mentioned in a few honorary works. It came to India with the arrival of Mughals in the 16th century.
The traditional recipe calls for carrots, milk, and sugar. But the recipe has evolved so much. Nowadays Khoya has become an essential addition to making the carrot halwa. Also, condensed milk (milkmaid), cream and milk powder are added to the recipe nowadays. The other ingredients are added only to elevate the flavor of the carrots. Simmering of fresh and in-season carrots can work wonders. All you need to give them is the required time to turn this into a sinfully delicious dessert. It is a time taking which takes hours to cook carrots in milk.
For variation in halwa you can add deep fried and crushed gond which give the crunch to halwa and texture to it. Carrots are cooked in milk for hours which gives moisture and richness to the carrot and then fried in clarified butter (ghee). You can add condensed milk beside khoya if you are using condensed milk use less sugar than the recipe.
This is the seasonal delight mixed with sugar, milk and lavishly sprinkled nuts. Here is my gajar halwa recipe:-
- Carrot 3 cups
- Milk 6 cups
- Ghee 10 tbsp
- Cashew (chopped ) 15
- Almonds (chopped) 15
- Sugar 1/2 cup
- Khoya 50 gm
- Cardamom powder 1 tsp
- Gond 2 tbsp
- Heat the ghee in a pan.
- Add 2 tbsp of gond and deep fry.
- Now in a pan add chopped cashews and almonds.
- Sautee it till becomes brown.
- In a pot add milk and boil it for 5 minutes.
- Add a grated carrot to the pan.
- Cook it for 30 minutes or till the carrot is cooked well in milk.
- Now add ghee to the halwa and fry it well.
- Add grated khoya and mix well.
- Now add crushed gond, sugar and dry fruits.
- Cook till sugar dissolves in halwa.
- Garnish it with khoya and chopped almonds on top.