“What’s gajar ka halwa?” Gladys was intrigued.
“It’s a traditional north Indian pudding made with carrots,” Parm said.
“Trust me, it’s the best dessert on earth.” –All Four Stars, page 208
Parm Singh is right. Move over, carrot cake–gajar ka halwa is the tastiest sweet dish made with carrots you could possibly imagine!
The first few times I tried this dessert, at Indian buffet restaurants in America, I had no idea what it was–I just knew that I loved it. Then, when I traveled in India, I had a chance to see some halwa-makers in action. Here’s a picture of my husband on the street in Delhi beside a large vat of the steaming pudding, which sells there for around 50 cents a portion. (And considering that you can often get a full dinner for a dollar in India, that’s quite expensive. Gajar ka halwa is a delicacy!)
In India, this dessert is often made with a special red variety of carrot, which doesn’t really affect the flavor, but makes the dish even prettier to look at.
In any case, when I needed to come up with an Indian dessert for All Four Stars that picky Parm would actually like and want to teach Gladys to make, gajar ka halwa was the obvious choice! Here’s my version of the recipe.
-Traditionally, one would use ghee (clarified butter) as the fat, but don’t worry if you don’t have any on hand–I’ve made it with plain old butter and it has still turned out delicious.
-Also, this recipe contains extra nuts, since Charissa loves them, but if you don’t or are allergic, they are easy to omit.
Parm Singh’s Favorite Gajar Ka Halwa
(makes 4 cups)
1 Tbsp ghee or butter
2 Tbsp cashews
2 Tbsp almonds (sliced, slivered, or chopped)
2 Tbsp raisins
4 Tbsp ghee or butter
11 carrots, peeled and shredded
3 cups milk (at least 1%, and the higher in fat the better)
1/2 cup sugar (plus more to taste)
1 tsp ground cardamom
If you are a young chef, ask an adult to work with you on this recipe.
In a large, deep skillet (preferably nonstick), melt 1 Tbsp ghee or butter over medium heat. Add the cashews and almonds and toast until the nuts are golden-brown and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Add the raisins for the last minute and cook, stirring, until they are plumped but not burnt. Remove the nuts and raisins into a bowl and set aside.
Melt the remaining 4 Tbsp ghee or butter in the skillet. Sautee the shredded carrots in the fat for 3-5 minutes. Add the milk, bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until the milk is all evaporated, about one hour.
Stir in the sugar and cardamom and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the sugar is melted and well-incorporated. Taste and add more sugar as desired. Before serving, stir in the nuts and raisins, or reserve as topping.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold in small bowls (a little goes a long way).
This recipe is part of a series inspired by dishes from All Four Stars, my middle-grade novel about 11-year-old restaurant critic Gladys Gatsby. It will be published by Putnam/Penguin on July 10, 2014.
Find more recipes on my four-star recipe page!