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.
There are some culinary combinations that gel together nicely and this recipe explores one such combination; cake, instant jelly and custard. This here is a very simple yet amazingly tempting dessert that’s ideal for Ramadan. The best part is that it requires very little cooking time. Also, nothing is set in stone here so feel free to experiment with different flavors and combinations.
- Chocolate/marble cake
- Swiss Rolls (I prefer chocolate but you can use any flavor)
- Vanilla-flavored custard powder (again, you can have any flavor you like)
- Instant Jelly (cherry or strawberry – because it adds a little color to your dessert)
- Fresh fruits (bananas and apples go well with this dessert but feel free to experiment)
- Melted chocolate (for chocolate cream and topping)
- Cut your fruits into small chunks and spread them evenly along the base of your serving dish
- Cook the instant jelly and pour it over the fruits
- Put the serving dish into the freezer to cool
- Make a batch of custard using the custard powder, milk, and sugar – the consistency of this should be thin (but slightly thicker than what you’d call ‘watery’)
- Take half of the hot custard and mix in some melted chocolate; this will be your chocolate cream
- Let the chocolate cream cool down in the refrigerator
- Remove the serving dish from the freezer; make sure the jelly is set properly
- Cut the Swiss rolls into thin slices and place them along the sides of the serving dish
- Remove the cooled chocolate cream and pour it into the center of the dish; spread it evenly so that it covers the entire dish
- Cut your marble/chocolate cake into chunks and spread it over the chocolate cream layer
- Now pour the remaining hot vanilla cream custard over the cake chunks; as the consistency is thin, the cake should be able to soak in the cream nicely
- Put the serving dish immediately into the refrigerator
- After 1 hour, top it off with some melted chocolate
- Serve chilled!
NOTE: As the recipe is fairly straight-forward, I have taken the liberty to leave out the exact quantities. The idea here is to demonstrate the layering of the dessert and the soaking of the cakes.