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Thursday, January 22, 2009

गाजर का हलवा: aka Gajar ka Halwa aka Indian Carrot Pudding

So I have some good news and some bad news.
Bad news: I dropped my camera while in India and bent the lens, hence destroying it forever and ever and making me very sad. I had that camera for years and now I must part with it :(
Good news: My mom has a camera that is better than mine, so I have simply stolen hers for the time being until I buy another one. Hers (a Canon) delivers great closeups in macro mode, which I used to photograph my latest creation - gajar halwa!

I rarely see gajar halwa around here, either in restaurants or at home. Maybe because it is rather difficult to re-create it here. For one, the carrots in India are a deep red, not the mild orange we know here, so the final product has a much more luring appeal to it. Second, there is a special type of dairy used in this halwa called mawa or khoya. Basically, it is milk that has been boiled down to until it reaches a solid stage, which takes hours. In India, you can either make it yourself or buy it at any store, but here it is nowhere to be found. You can always use another form of dairy, but the taste will never compare to the true one that comes from using khoya. I got lucky - my friend from India brought me back two pounds of the stuff, so I'm set for a month!

Gajar halwa is my all-time favourite Indian dessert, and once you try this, you will know why. It's very distinct and wonderfully satisfying. It takes some time, but the result is worth it. You can even make it the night before; it actually tastes better after a day or so anyways!

Given the absense of khoya here, I would just substitute heavy cream or milk. The texture will be more or less the same, but like I mentioned before, the taste will not be; however, it still will taste delicious. I also used a small, 1.5 litre pressure-cooker. You'll have to adjust accordingly based on how large yours is.

4-5 carrots, washed and grated
4-5 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup khoya, milk, or cream
Fresh coconut pieces and/or almonds [garnish]

1) Place the carrots in a pressure cooker and pour enough milk until the carrots are just submerged. Pressure cook on high until one whistle. Turn off heat and let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
2) Heat a kadhai (wok) over medium heat and pour in carrot mixture. Reduce heat slightly and roast until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occassionally so the carrots don't burn. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how wet the mixture is.
3) Pour in a scant cup of milk and continue to cook over medium-low heat until most of the milk has evaporated.
4) Add the sugar and cook for 5-10 minutes longer. Taste and add more sugar if needed.
5) Add the khoya (or cream or milk) and cook until there is no more liquid left and the khoya is fully integrated into the halwa.
6) Scoop into bowls and garnish with coconut and almonds. Serve hot.

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