With the onset of winter, root vegetables become abundant at the market. Beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, leeks, turnips, radish are all thriving and in season. The vegetables are simply sweeter and when roasted in the oven, the sugar in them caramelizes to make them even sweeter, and when complemented with the right spices, they make fantastic anytime meals! I love roasted carrots and beets, with spices, and I use them in my salads. They make for a hearty salad, and you really do not need anything else with such a hearty salad, ofcourse with a bit of soft cheese like goat cheese.
Carrots always remind me of Gajjar no Halvo that my mom used to make ever so often! Her gajjar no halvo was seriously the best I have ever had. It was a family ordeal, believe it or not. She would get atleast 2 Kgs worth of carrots. So imagine, washing them, cutting the ends off, peeling the skin off, and then grating ALL of those carrots – that took some time, especially with my brother and I helping mom to grate all those carrots! We were kids after all! We would all sit on the kitchen floor, with newspapers spread, so that there is no mess, and it makes for an easy cleanup! Brother and I, along with mom, would distribute the carrots, and we would go through the whole process together. There would be so much grated carrot! She would make a huge batch of the Gajjar no Halvo! Some would be for us, some for family, some for friends. The best part about living in Mumbai, is that you could simply pack food and give it to people, and giving food to people brought so much joy to mom. It was what she loved to do, what made her cook so much, and share the cooking with the people she loved.
!*WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF GAJJAR NO HALVO?*
Gajjar no Halvo is a sweet Indian dessert that originated from the Mughal period, about 500 years ago. Halvo means “sweet” and it comes from the Arabic word “Halwa”. Gajjar no Halvo originated in Punjab, and is usually a winter sweet, because of the abundance of carrots in this season. Carrots have a lot of nutritional value and Vitamin A, and along with ghee, milk, spices and nuts, it makes it a healthy sweet dessert that would help to keep the body warm in the cold winters in North India and give strength and energy due to the ingredients.
- Ghee (some fat)
- Whole milk/heavy cream (more fat)
- Nuts like pistachios/almonds/cashews
!*TEXTURE OF THE GRATED CARROTS:*
To make the best carrot halwa or gajjar no halvo, selection of carrots is important firstly. Make sure to select carrots that are very orange in color. The deeper the orange, the more flavorful and sweeter they are. Secondly, use a fine grater to grate the carrots, for the best possible texture for the halvo. I have used a bigger grater, to make it easier to make the halvo, and I have used a fine grater. And the results are the BEST when you use a fine grater. I do grate by hand, and it takes me a good 45 minutes to grate by myself, but let me tell you, the effort is worth it! Who said that GOOD food comes EASY!? GOOD FOOD, is a LABOR OF LOVE and you can taste it in this really awesome HALVO! Do NOT SKIP THIS STEP. You will NOT REGRET IT!
Halvo comes together quite easily. It requires less ingredients, and it is more like a one pot dish where you put everything in, and let it slow cook for 45 minutes, until all the milk has evaporated and it is smooth in texture and a darker orange in color. Halvo can be made even with pumpkin, or a bottle gourd or dudhi, using the same ingredients, although the quantity may differ. Bottle gourd has a lot of water content, so less whole milk may be required for making the bottle gourd halvo.
The Halvo starts off with the ghee. Ghee is a very important fat in this dish. Firstly ghee is very nutritious for you, ofcourse in small quantities. It lubricates the throat, and also the stomach. Ghee is a good source for good fats and it decreases the bad cholesterol that is the LDL. Ghee has amazing anti-inflammatory properties as well. All in all ghee is required in small amounts by our body. After melting the ghee, you want to add the grated carrots and saute them for a bit. Then the whole milk and heavy cream aka more fat is added to develop the flavor in the halvo, along with granulated sugar to make it sweet, smooth and silky in texture. Flavor is added in the form of freshly ground cardamom and nutmeg, along with a pinch of saffron, again to give is a luxurious feel and taste. It is pertinent to add freshly ground spices to any sweet dish, giving it the best fragrance and flavor possible.
I always add 3 kinds of nuts in it, namely almonds, pistachios and cashews. They need to be sliced thin, almost like scraping each nut with the knife for that lovely texture that it adds to the halvo. Raisins add that bit of sweetness from the dried grape. Raisins when added to the hot halvo, plump up, and I love that burst of sweetness from it, when chewed in halvo. The entire mixture is cooked, until the milk/heavy cream almost boils down to create a smooth and silky texture.
Gajjar no halvo is a popular dessert even at Indian weddings. It is served as a sweet dish in a Gujarati Thali too, which is served with cooked vegetables, any kind of Indian bread like rotli, lentils or daal, rice, a farsan or a snack, and a sweet dish like this Gajjar no Halvo.
!*BEST WAY TO ENJOY GAJJAR NO HALVO:*
I love my gajjar no halvo, slightly warm, with a small vanilla bean ice cream scoop on the top. It is the best way to enjoy this ice cream, and makes it the most luxurious dessert ever!
I usually make this dessert once a year during Diwali time. I make a large batch and freeze some for my father in law(the halvo freezes really well!), because he loves the halvo that I make! So when we meet during the Christmas Holidays, he gets a fine treat to enjoy. My son is a huge fan of this dessert and I love seeing his face light up with joy when he smells the aroma in the kitchen, when making the halvo. The best kinda face to look at! So go to your kitchens and make this beautiful dessert! It is an absolute treat, one that you do not want to miss! Make it for Diwali this year and watch the faces of your friends and family light up with joy!
Have a beautiful Diwali, to all of you, and your friends and family! May this coming year be hopeful, healthy and happy in more ways than one for you and your loved ones.