We are headed to India for one of the most popular desserts called gajar ka halwa.
Halwa, Halva, helva, halvah, halava, halawa, alva, xalwo, haleweh, ħelwa, hulwa, halvah, helava, halua, aluva, chalva, chałwa, Халва, हलवा”,حلوى ,חלבה! So many names for one translation, a name derived from the Arabic حلوى halwa, meaning sweet.
Where does halva come from?
As mentioned here, halva comes from two culinary traditions:
– A Turkish tradition based on tehina (roasted sesame ground into a paste) that has a dense and crumbly consistency.
– An Indian tradition, although not as widespread across the world, often based on semolina and with a consistency that is creamier.
In both traditions, halwa is prepared with various ingredients such as sunflower seeds (especially in Russia, Romania and Ukraine), various types of nuts, as well as beans, lentils and vegetables including carrots, pumpkins, yams, and squash.
The different types of halva
Tehina-based halva is the most popular and most consumed and in Eastern Mediterranean like in Turkey or the Balkans region, in countries such as Greece, Macedonia, as well as Israel, Lebanon, the Egypt or Malta (where it is called helwa tat-tork, meaning sweet Turkish).
However, halwa Bahraini for example, does not contain semolina or tehina but corn starch instead. A recipe typical to Bahrain that was created by the Showaiter dynasty, owner of the halwa chain store across the country.
What is Indian halva?
Called halva in Hindi or halava in Sanskrit, halva is, in all its forms, one of the most popular and appreciated sweet treats in India.
Halwa is, in most cases, based on semolina, such as in Mike’s rava kesari, but there are also various recipes calling for nuts, fruits, and vegetables such as carrots.
It is precisely the carrot version that I chose to prepare today. It is called gajar ka halwa.
Gajar ka halwa or carrot halwa, is probably the most famous Indian dessert after kulfi or gulab jamun This is an original dessert from Punjab, a northern state of India, which is also known as the gajrela.
What is the origin of gajar ka halwa?
In India, it is commonly accepted that gajar ka halwa was brought into the country during the expansion of the Mughal Empire in 1526. During its expansion, the Mughal Empire brought international traders who imported fascinating products such as carrot, but not any carrot: orange carrot! Yes, the only known carrot was purple at the time.
What is khoya?
This dessert contains an unusual ingredient: khoya, also called khoa, but do not worry, you can just as easily make gajar ak halwa without it.
It consists of a concentration of cow and buffalo milks to produce a cheese of extremely low humidity, so low that it is crumbly. There is a less dry version called dhap that is often used for the preparation of the other famous Indian dessert called gulab jamun. 600,000 tons of khoa are produced each year in India alone.
How to make gajar ka halwa
Gajar ka halwa is a dessert that is very easy to prepare. It is slightly sweet if not for the carrot that is naturally sweet. The slow cooking method just requires diligent monitoring and constant mixing. The result develops a great nutty taste which seems to be the outcome of the carrots mixed with cashew nuts and cardamom.
“To cultivate the friendship between two people, it can take the patience of one of the two.” – Indian proverb
Yes, it took a lot of patience to listen to Mike panic about the thoroughness and respect to the rules I would show for his favorite cuisine in the whole world. Well, OK I must admit that he was right, Indian cuisine is indeed delicious ! Still, I can’t wait for him to cook Moroccan cuisine and I will put our friendship to the test!
- 4 carrots , grated
- 3½ tablespoons clarified butter (ghee)
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 oz. khoa (curd), crumbled or grated (optional)
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon raisins (optional)
- 2 tablespoons ground cashews
- 2 tablespoons ground almonds
- 1 tablespoon whole cashews (for garnishing)
Heat the ghee and fry the carrots for about 5 minutes over low/medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add sugar and khoa and cook for 5 more minutes, still stirring constantly.
Stir in the ground cashews, ground almonds, raisins and cardamom.
Mix, add milk and cook covered for 25 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated.
Serve hot, warm or cold, sprinkled with whole cashews.
For the cold version, flatten the mixture to a thickness of 1 inch and chill for 3 hours. Cut into small squares before serving.