Making Indian desserts can be a bit time consuming but they aren’t complicated and don’t require particular skills. Notoriously sweet and fragrant, and designed to be eaten in small quantities, unlike your traditional slice of American pie or cake, they make an elegant little dinner party sweetmeat. They’ll also stimulate people’s curiosity, leading to lively conversation, in the event you’re running out of things to talk about.
Carrot Halva has a rather dense consistency; the slow cooking process concentrates the ingredients and brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots. Some people might find the idea of boiling full fat milk with grated carrots until it’s a sticky mass, rather odd – but it’s so worth it. Anyway, we eat carrot cake, don’t we?
The only real effort required is your willingness to stir the contents of the pan every now and then, for up to an hour.
I decided to use the rainbow colored carrots that were lurking in my fridge, which explains why the dessert isn’t as orange looking as it could be. The purple carrots neutralized the overall color somewhat but it still looked pretty.
This is a delicious pudding that’s best served warm or at room temperature.
*Note – regular white sugar in the US is what we refer to as ‘caster sugar’ in the UK. It has a super-fine granule.
CARROT HALVA (Adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe)
1lb (450g) of organic carrots, washed and trimmed (buy them ready-washed in a bag)
1 1/4 pints (700ml) of full fat milk
8 whole green cardamom pods, very slightly cracked open
5 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter) or canola oil
5 tablespoons of (*caster) white sugar
2 tablespoons of golden raisins or sultanas
1 tablespoon of pine nuts, lightly toasted
A pinch of saffron
crème fraîche or clotted cream to serve (optional)
Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until all the liquid has evaporated (40-60 minutes).
Once all the liquid has boiled off, heat the oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan and stir-fry the carrot mixture until it becomes a rich, deep orange color (about 5-10 minutes).
Add the sugar, raisins and pine nuts – continue to stir-fry for a couple of minutes until everything is well combined and the sugar has dissolved.
Divide among small dishes and push the halva into little mound shapes. You could even use a small mold to do this if you’re a persnickety perfectionist.
Allow then to cool slightly (if serving warm), or to room temperature. Just before serving, top the halva with a blob of heavy cream, clotted cream or crème fraîche.