February 4, 2009

Gajar Ka Halwa (An Indian Carrot Confection)

It is difficult to translate “Halwa” into English. A halwa is a sweet/ confection that is made from different kinds of grains/ flours or vegetables and contains sugar/ jaggery, ghee, lots of dried fruit and nuts and sometimes milk. The consistency of halwa can vary from dry and crumbly, through sticky to fudgy and thick enough to be cut into bars.

So the word halwa would conjure up different pictures in different peoples’ minds. Considering the widespread presence of various types of halwa (also halva or halvah) in the countries of the Middle East, and even Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Albania to mention a few, I think it is reasonable to assume that this confection arrived in the Indian subcontinent along with the invaders/ traders from Persia.

In India, the most common type of halwa is probably that made of grainy wheat semolina known as "Sooji Halwa" in Hindi, "Kesari" in Tamil and "Sheera" in Goa. Halwas are also made from broken wheat, wheat flour, all purpose flour, lentils/ gram, nuts and vegetables.

I’m not very fond of most halwas though I can always find space in my tummy for a bit of badam halwa (almond), kaju katli (cashewnut) and my all time favourite, which is gaajar (carrot) halwa. Halwas are very rich so a small portion is usually more than enough.

I learnt to make carrot halwa from my cousin, and making it had become an annual affair for me till 5 years ago. Unfortunately for me, these carrots were not available when we moved to Cochin and my annual halwa making ritual cam to an end!

The usual orange variety of carrots can be made into halwa, but halwa made from the long red variety of carrots is just something else. These carrots grow in the cooler climates of India (mostly the north) and are available only during the months of December, January and Februuary. They are juicier and very sweet so halwa made from them is more carrot and less sugar.

Now we are back in Goa and it’s once again the season for those carrots, and I’m back at making halwa. You can grate the carrots in the food processor or hand-held/ box grater. Naturally, its easier with the former though I grated the carrots by hand for last month's match of halwa (it's been ages since I grated such a large quantity by hand) because my food processor went into a temporary sulk!

One good thing about this halwa, is that you can make a large quantity of it and freeze it. I know it keeps well for about 2 months, because that's how long it took to finish what I had made!

Gajar Ka Halwa


11/2 kg carrots, peeled and grated*

1 L milk (I use 3% fat, but full fat milk gives a richer taste)

1 cup sugar

1/2 to 3/4 cup ghee

1 1/2 tsp powdered cardamom

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup halved cashewnuts

*Do not grate the carrots very fine or your halwa will turn mushy, though it would still taste good.


In a small pan, heat 1 tbsp ghee and fry the raisins, over low to medium heat, till they puff up and just start browning. Remove from the ghee and keep aside. In the same pan, heat another tbsp of ghee and similarly fry the cashewnuts till they are lightly golden. Remove them from the ghee and keep aside. If there is any ghee left, use it while adding the rest of the ghee while making the halwa.

Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed and deep pan. Add the carrots and cook over medium to high heat while stirring frequently, till the carrots are done and the milk has reduced to less than half the original quantity.

You can do this in the microwave too, which is what I do. I prefer doing this part of the cooking in the MW, because it saves time and ensures that the carrots don't become mushy. If using the MW, then divide the grated carrots into half. Cook one half with 1 cup of milk (loosely cover the deep glass bowl) for 8 minutes at 100%. Repeat this with the other half too. Then Put the cooked carrot-milk mixture and the remaining milk in the heavy bottomed pan and bring it to a boil and reduce the milk to about half the original quantity.

Now add the sugar and keep stirring till its dissolved and the mixture is thicker and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the ghee, in two separate lots, stirring well after each addition. Keep stirring until the halwa turns a slightly deeper red in colour and no liquid is visible at the bottom of the pan. The halwa should be soft and moist but not wet.
Take the pan off the heat. Now add the powdered cardamom, raisind and cashenuts and mix everything well. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator or freezer.
This recipe should serve about 10, depending on the serving size.

Gajar/ Carrot halwa tastes best when served slightly warm. So just before serving, slightly warm the halwa. Many people in India prefer to serve/ eat this halwa with vanilla ice-cream but I prefer the halwa just as it is, warm and fragrant with cardamom.

This is my entry for WTSIM hosted this month by Johanna, the Passionate Cook.



Nags said...

my ex-housemate loved this!! i am not a huge fan except if its accompanied by equal or more amounts of vanilla ice cream :D

Navita said...

aarree thts my fav...yum yum yum!

hi, loved reading u...would love to have u around at my place too.:)

Happy cook said...

Like Nags says i am also not a huge fan of carrot halwa and i have neve rmade them.
Halwas i love to eat are the black ones and red ones.
Don't know if you buy vanith magazine, there is a full article on halwas and recipies there .

jayasree said...

I love carrot halwa with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Nice presentation.

sra said...

Funny how I thought of everything but carrot!!! till I saw an entry for FIC yesterday. and then I remembered something in my drafts - you'll have it soon!

I've made carrot halwa with the red carrots - they were available this year too, I just didn't find the right time.

HoneyB said...

This sounds like something I would enjoy as do the nut ones!

Chitra said...

added this to my "try" list.Looks yummmm..nice color:)Drop into my blog sometime:)

Rosie said...

I've never tried halwa but it sounds a dish I would really enjoy! Lovely colours and great pics :0)

Rosie x

Asha said...

Perfect orange.I have one too at FH but I don't like reposting the same. Enjoy eating Gajar halwa!:)

This dish also suits RCI Haryana.

pigpigscorner said...

This recipe sounds wonderful. I've never had halwa before. Maybe I should try to make some.

Jayashree said...

I just made gajar halwa with these carrots too....will be sending it to you for FIC as soon as I post it.

TBC said...

It's been ages since I made this! I have a bag of baby carrots in the refrigerator. You just reminded me that they need to be used.:D

Uj said...

aaagh.. now that's what I had planned on making for your event! Anyways I will put on my thinking cap and make something else

Uj said...

oops forgot.. The dish looks yummy...BTW it would never remain for 2 months at my house we would gulp it down soon..Love to have it warm with vanilla icecream

Smitha said...

Winter carrot halwa!an absolute beauty! Love it

Ashwini said...

Love the halwa made with red carrots...Pic looks awesome..

Soma said...

My favorite of all halwas. The color came out bearutifully with these carrots. & u could save it for 2 months? it would have been all gone for me...a little bite every few minutes:-)

Cham said...

I made something with carrot yest , keeping the events in mind, luckily not Halwa! U got such a perfect color!

Chris said...

Before I visited Singapore, I wasn't a fan of Indian desserts. But then I went to this fantastic restaurant where our waiter recommended this dish - my tastebuds were blown away! This combination of ingredients -especially the cardamom- is really not seen in Western desserts, so I was very pleasantly surprised. Thanks for this! Ever since tasting it, I've been wondering how to make it for myself :)

Vanamala said...

lovely color..

Jan Scholl said...

One of my favorite restaurants here in Michigan serves this as part of the normal Thali style dinner. Its called Ashoka and is in Troy on Rochester Road if anyone ever is near it. One of only two places I will ever eat Indian food locally. I really need to drive there soon.

sunshinemom said...

What a lovely color - my all time favourite halwa too:) Made a low fat version yesterday for FIC!!

Simran said...

Lovely, delicious looking halwa. It's the only kind I eat, but I never make it because mine never turns out as good as mom's

A_and_N said...

My kinda dessert :) Colourful!

Arfi Binsted said...

ooooo yummy yummy!! I've made rice kheer and I think it was just lovely. I haven't tried this carrot pudding just yet. one day I will!

DK said...

what would I not do, to get my hands on that bowl! yummy!

Bharti said...

It used be pretty much an annual dessert for us to. Mom always made it in the winters. We don't get the red carrots here in US, so I rarely venture in to making this any more.
You are tempting me though!

Aparna said...

I can see a lot of you prefer the halwa with ice-cream. :)
Yes, the colour is beautiful, but that's because I useed the winter carrots. You don't get quite the same colour or taste with the regular carrots.

Navita, is that an invitation? :)

HC, actually this is one of the few halwas I like. I don't like those halwas you mention though my husband could make a meal of them.:D

I don't get Vanita here, but I do buy a copy at the station, every time we travel by train.

Sra, I'll look forward to that entry.
So you do have a sweet tooth? :)

Thank you, Chitra. I most definitely will.

Thanks for that tip, Asha. RCI Haryana, it is then.

Waiting for the entry, Jayashree.

Uj & Soma, it doesn't usually remain that long in mine either. Its just that every season, I make about 3 or 4 large batches! :D

Chris, gald to know you liked this. I hope you will give this a try.

Jan, that's nice. I've never been served this halwa with a thali meal so far but I wouldn't mind it if they did.

Harini, that's great. This in a low fat version, is having your halwa and eating it too! :D

I understand, Bharti.
I didn't make this the past 4 years because I couldn't find these carrots.

Miri said...

I love gajar halwa and made sure it was on my list of desserts at our wedding. Now that we are in Delhi I make sure to make it during the winter months every other week. I make it a lot like yours and the secret I have found is to slow cook it till the milk almost turns into khoya! :)

Jude said...

Love this carrot dessert. The natural sweetness of carrots makes it great, even if some people tend to think that carrot desserts are weird.

thepassionatecook said...

wow.. what an unusual creation! I love carrots in all shapes an formats, although I tend to use them mainly raw. A wonderful contribution to this month's WTSIM... thanks for your entry!

bbaking said...

this sounds lovely, I love anything like this. Do you think butter could be used instead of ghee?

Aparna said...

I have never tried using butter and I don't think it would work as ghee gives this preparation a unique flavour.
But you can make ghee from butter (unsalted preferably). Melt the butter and then let it cook over medium heat until it becomes clear and the solids start browning and the mixture gives off an aroma (not not let the solids burn). The clear golden brown liquid is the ghee. Turn off the heat and after it has cooled down a bit, drain it off and use. This process is also called clarifying or browning butter.

Margaret said...

I have never heard of halwa before reading this posting, but it looks absolutely delicious.