Gajar Ka Halwa
Carrots have the same seasonal presence in Pakistan as pumpkin has in West. The main difference is that we don’t add carrot to our coffee or tea. As soon as seasonal carrots arrive, they become a part of almost daily meal. Soups, salads, pasta, pickles, main meals and desserts. In fact, there is a popular drink in the province of Punjab which is made with deep colored carrots. The drink is called Kanji and it is a salty and spicy drink. Last season I shared the recipe of Gajrayla / Carrot Kheer / Carrot Pudding that I make as long as fresh carrots are available but this time I kicked off the season with carrot halwa or gajjar ka halwa.
Halwa is a traditional dessert of Pakistan. Many different types of vegetables, pulses, flours and nuts are cooked as halwa. There is even egg halwa. Procedure to make halwa would vary according to the main ingredient so for this post let us generally discuss how halwa is made from vegetables. Halwa that is made of vegetables has typically mushy texture with an intensified flavor of the main ingredient. Besides carrot, there is kadu/loki (bottle gourd) halwa and paythay ka halwa (pumpkin). Vegetable is washed, peeled and grated first. Then heated uncovered in a big pot to evaporate the water. This helps soften the vegetable. Then it is cooked with milk till milk is evaporated too. This step is significant in halwa making as it gives smooth and creamy consistency to the halwa. Most sweet shops and bakeries that sell halwa usually don’t cook vegetable with milk that is why such halwa lacks texture and creaminess. Then halwa is sweetened with sugar and cooked more as sugar releases it’s water too and it needs to get dried. Now comes the integral part which is adding ghee and pan roasting the halwa. We call it bhonana in Urdu and it is so important in our cuisine. This step gives richness to the halwa and enhance the flavor. It also ensures that there is no moisture left in halwa.
Adding khoya and nuts is optional to some but the way I see, it is the real oomph factor. To me textures are extremely important in a dish. Let me break it down. Khoya is semi solid type evaporated milk and there is no sugar in it. Halwa is mushy and so is khoya but it adds a playful note to the flavor. Sweet halwa and unsweetened khoya work so well together as you get two almost similar textures with different flavors. It kinda balances the sweetness with it’s richness and smoothness. And nuts and dry fruits!!! Oh my! These aren’t for the winter season and munching only. They deserve to be added to each and every winter food. For halwa, they add more flavor and more layers of texture. Imagine your taste buds savoring the peek-a-boo of sweet mushy vegetable and creamy rich unsweetened khoya, both smooth textures and then comes a slight crunch of sliced almonds, chopped pistachio followed by a pulpy juicy raisin. Pure bliss I tell you.
Some add chopped or sliced boiled eggs to gajjar ka halwa which is totally optional. I may serve them as side but not mix it with halwa while presenting it or serving it. Just a personal thing. You can freeze halwa for a month easily. Make sure container is airtight. If you choose to add boiled eggs to gajjar ka halwa, don’t add while freezing. Only add while serving.
A few points to remember while making gajjar ka halwa. Buy fresh and seasonal carrots. Do not add hard yellow part to halwa as it will effect the overall appearance and flavor. I prefer using homogenized milk for desserts for consistent result and taste. It is preferred to add desi ghee to halwa for it’s signature aroma and flavor. If you don’t like desi ghee, use some other ghee but not butter please. Although flavorless cooking oil would work too. Slice or chop or crush the nuts as you wish but strictly use good quality. Don’t let a bitter almond ruin all your hard work!
Gajjar Ka Halwa
Say hello to the winter in the sweetest and tastiest way! This gajjar ka halwa is a perfect treat all through the season.
- 1 kg carrots, washed, scrapped and grated
- 500 ml whole milk
- 2-3 pods green cardamoms, use seeds only
- 1¼ cups sugar (more or less according to taste)
- ⅓ - ½ cup desi ghee
- ⅓ cup khoya (or as desired)
- nuts and raisins as required
In a large pot steam grated carrots over low flame. Keep the pot uncovered to let water from carrots evaporate.
Stir at regular intervals.
Once water is dried, add milk and seeds of green cardamoms.
Stir well and bring to a boil over medium flame.
Lower the flame and cover the pot and let cook till milk dries. Keep stirring at regular intervals.
After milk evaporates, add in sugar and keep on stirring till all moisture dries up.
Pour in desi ghee and roast halwa for about 7-10 minutes or till there is no moisture. Turn the flame off.
Crumble khoya and add to halwa. Mix.
Add in nuts and raisins.
Serve hot or warm.
- Make sure to keep on stirring after adding sugar otherwise it will burn quickly and stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add khoya after switching the flame off.
- You can add kewra or rose water, about half a teaspoon. I personally don't like such flavorings so I don't add.