Gajar ka Halwa is probably the most popular and certainly the most famous of Indian sweet dishes. It originates from the the northern parts of India and although it takes a little bit of time to prepare, the steps to make this dessert are straight forward and simple. The effort will be greatly rewarded because this dessert is full of wonderful rich carroty and nutty flavor and the spicy aroma of cardamom and cinnamon will leave you craving for more.
In Hindi Gajar means carrot, which is the main ingredient of this dessert. Although people in India will eat the halwa throughout the year, it is most popular during the Fall/Winter seasons. However, it is the festival of Diwali that brings the best out in this dessert.
Diwali this year is on November 9th and to celebrate this on WFLH and to wish all my Indian readers a Happy Diwali I thought nothing would be more appropriate then making some Gajar ka Halwa.
Diwali or Deepawali is celebrated by Indians all across the globe and is celebrated for five consecutive days at the end of Hindu month of Ashwayuja. It usually occurs in October/November, and is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals in India. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Indians will decorate their houses with lights, candles and lamps - or as they are traditionally known in India - diyas. The lights and lamps signify the lighting of darkness and victory of good over the evil within.
Traditionally a Hindu festival, Jains and Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. Besides who can turn down a party like this ;-)
There are several beliefs as to the origin of the holiday. The most common version is that Hindus celebrate Diwali to mark the time when Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana. Hindus believe that whenever the power of evil increases in the world, Vishnu comes down to earth in a different form to defeat evil. These forms are called Avataras. Krishna and Rama are the popular Avataras of Vishnu. Diwali celebrations are especially a time for telling stories - about Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi, about Krishna, Rama and his wife Sita and any other tales that personifies the good winning over evil.
My grandfather was a fantastic storyteller. It was not too often, but we did spend a few Diwalis in India and those were memorable times. The fireworks, the houses all dressed up with candles and diyas, family and friends going in and out of the house with boxes full of gifts and sweets. For a girl of 7/8 years it was a magical time.
My favorite time of the day would be just around the time the sun would start setting and before the dark skies were lit up with fireworks and lights. My grandfather would pull up his chair on the pavement just outside the house and a few of us kids would gather around sitting barefooted on the pavement. He would start telling great tales of great warriors fighting against the evil or about our Sikh Gurus. Soon enough other kids and grown-ups from around the neighborhood would leave whatever they were doing and join us on the pavement. My grandmother would hand us small bowls of her special made gajar ka halwa. I'd scoop the warm halwa with my fingers into my mouth, enjoying its warmth and sweetness, but never taking my eyes off my grandfather. I might miss one of his famous expressions or mimics or simply the twinkle in his eyes.
I wish you all a Happy Diwali!
Come join me for a Traditional Feast this month. Bring along your favorite dish to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanuka or Diwali.
Details can be found here.
Deadline: December 3rd.
Printable version here.
750g sweet carrots - grated
1 cinnamon stick
4 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter) - you can also substitute this with a neutral falvored oil
3 tablespoons khoya - substitute with ricotta cheese
30g almonds - without skins and coarsely chopped
30g cashews - coarsely chopped
15g unsalted pistachios - finely chopped
60g sweet raisins
8 cardamom capsules - finely crushed - as an alternative use 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
In a large heavy pot add the grated carrots, milk and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Uncovered, cook for approx. 20 - 25 minutes or until the mixture has slightly thickened and the milk has integrated into the carrots. Stir the mixture frequently to avoid it sticking to the pot.
You do not want a gooey-mushy consistency but rather a light and fluffy one, so make sure that the grated carrots do not turn into a mushy mixture, by taking the mixture off the heat when it has reached the desired texture and when the carrots are cooked. If there is still any excess milk in the pot, drain it.
Stir in the khoya or ricotta cheese and set aside. In a non-stick frying pan heat up the ghee (or oil), then add the carrot mixture. Add the sugar and stir constantly to dissolve. On a high heat sauté for 3-5 minutes until the carrots glisten and start to turn a wonderful golden color.
Add the cardamom (or cardamom powder), nuts and raisins and sauté for a further 3 minutes. Make sure you mix the ingredients often so that they are nicely infused with each other and to avoid it sticking to the pan.
Serve this warm or cold. I personally like it slightly warm as the flavors and aroma of this exquisite dessert stand out more when warm.
This dessert has a special place in my heart. It reminds me of those great tales my grandfather would tell and of my grandmother happily serving this to the entire neighborhood. It is also one of the sweets I served Thomas back in the days when we first met and maybe even the dessert that won him over LOL! Soeren simply loves the crunchy nuts, moist raisins paired with the sweet carrots. While cooking, I will re-tell a few of those tales of good over evil, never missing the twinkle in his eyes.
With Friends & Feasts I would like to bring you a selection of interesting recipes for the upcoming festivities. Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, I hope you will find a few interesting ideas for your own feast. Stay tuned!
More dessert ideas on WFLH:
Cantuccini Plum Cheesecakes
Nougat Glacé on warm fruit compote
Mousse au chocolat
I'd like to send this over to Anna for this years Festive Food Fair.
Also just making it by the nick of time (thank god for time zones) for Vee's Jihva Special Edition - The Festive Series.
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