The greeting “What’s up, Doc?” immediately conjures up an image of Bugs Bunny nonchalantly chewing on a carrot, trying to evade (or shall I say, torment?) his eternal archenemies Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam. What can I say, I’m a big fan of Looney tunes! I know for a fact that many people started eating carrots as kids mainly because “Bugs Bunny eats them”, kind of like why Popeye fans can’t get enough of spinach (yuck!).
All the ‘toon-talk aside, carrots are one of the most well-loved of all the vegetables (some even argue it’s a fruit). They seem to have originated in Iran or Afghanistan, with references dating back to the 1st century, and were introduced in Europe sometime around 8-10th century. The rest, as they say, is history. Here are a few interesting facts about carrots:
- Carrots are about 87% water.
- Carrots come in white, yellow, purple (seriously!), orange, and red colors.
- Carrots are a great source of carotene, which metabolizes into Vitamin A and is helpful in restoring vision.
- Carrots are a rich low-calorie source of dietary fiber, antioxidants (bye-bye wrinkles), and a host of minerals.
- Too much carrot consumption can result in a benign condition called carotenosis resulting in an orange skin (a tanning job gone bad); don’t worry, it’s totally reversible.
Besides being a great source of nutrition, carrots have been (successfully) introduced into a variety of mouth-watering dishes including cakes, pickles, steak-sides, juices, breads, jams, and even dough nuts. Inherently, carrots lean towards the sweeter side of the taste spectrum, which makes them an ideal ingredient for desserts. Carrots are in season now, and what more could a Pakistani ask for on a cold winter evening than a plate full of piping hot Gajar ka Halwa (a.k.a. Carrot Pudding) that you oh-so-love. Fortunately, there are quite a few places across the country that serve one mean halwa platter, but nothing is quite as satisfying as the aromas that emanate from your kitchen as you make this delightfully tempting concoction at home. This is, by far, one of my favorite things to have in the winter when the carrots are in full bloom, and I intend to make the most of them (and so should you!).
Enough with the drooling already; let’s get on with the recipe.
- 1 kg full fat milk
- 1 kg carrots (grated)
- 5-6 tbsp condensed milk
- 5-6 tbsp sugar (can be adjusted according to your personal preferences)
- 250 gm khoya
- 1 tbsp ghee (or oil)
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 1-2 pinches of powdered cardamom (optional)
- A handful of coarsely chopped cashews, pistachios, almonds and walnuts
- Heat milk in a pan and let it simmer till it reduces to about one-third of its original content
- Add the sugar and the condensed milk to the pan, and stir till everything is dissolved
- Add the grated carrots to the pan, sprinkle the cardamom powder and mix
- Let the carrots cook in the milk mixture on high flame till the milk has almost dried up
- Add ghee and raisins, and mix them into the halwa; cook for a few more minutes until the milk has completely dried up
- Mix in the khoya and the nuts (save some for garnishing), and turn off the stove
- Put the halwa in a serving bowl and garnish with your favorite nuts
- For best results, serve immediately and make sure to save some for later (trust me!)
Even if you aren’t a Bugs Bunny fan, you are sure to win the hearts of everyone at the next dinner party you are throwing; don’t be surprised to see someone volunteering to lick the serving bowl clean.