Gajar Ka Halwa

My mother-in-law in India usually makes this dessert for special occasions, such as Diwali, when it starts getting cooler and lal gajar (red carrots) become available. This Punjabi dessert is subtle and divine without being super sweet, unlike most North Indian mithais or desserts. It’s actually pretty healthy--or at least that’s what I tell myself so that I can eat copious quantities without feeling guilty! Almost a zen-like process, making gajar ka halwa is a labor of love; don’t rush. Enjoy the process. I had such a high bar for this recipe that I actually made it over ten times to get the exact same taste as when it’s made at home. Recipe by Nidhi Jalan for Food Network Kitchen
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 55 min
  • Active: 1 hr 10 min
  • Yield: 4 to 5 servings
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Ingredients

Directions

  1. Bring the milk to boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, stirring often to keep the milk from burning. Reduce the heat enough to keep the milk in a low boil, and cook, stirring frequently, until the milk is reduced to about 1 1/2 to 2 cups, about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the nuts and cook, stirring, until golden and crunchy, about 2 minutes; remove to a paper towel and set aside. 
  3. In the same skillet, add the carrots and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the carrots soften and dry up a little, about 15 minutes. If the carrots start sticking, add 1 tablespoon ghee.  
  4. Add the reduced milk and cardamom if using and increase the heat to medium-high. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat a touch to maintain a heavy simmer, stirring regularly, until the milk is completely absorbed by the carrots, about 30 minutes.   
  5. Add the sugar and cook, stirring regularly, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Remove and discard the cardamom seeds if desired. 
  6. If serving right away, add 3 tablespoons of ghee and cook, stirring, until the halwa starts pulling away from the side of the pan and is a little caramelized, about 10 minutes. Garnish with nuts before serving. 
  7. Ideally, you should make the halwa earlier in the day or the day before. Just before serving, heat some ghee in a wok or large skillet (in India they would do it in a kadhai), add some of the halwa (just as much as you want to eat) and cook, stirring, until somewhat caramelized and a little crunchy. Garnish with the nuts and serve.   

Cook’s Note

Instead of cooking down the milk, you can use 1 1/2 cups canned unsweetened evaporated milk. It saves you cleaning a pot and about some time, but the taste will never be as good as using fresh whole milk and reducing it and you don't get that nice crunchy caramelization. It's important that the carrots are coarsely grated, the halwa should have some texture and not be a total mash up.

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