Carrot halwa or gajar ka halwa is a favourite Punjabi recipe, but variations appear in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Halwa means sweet in Arabic and how sweet it is, too – an almost caramelised concoction of grated carrots and soft cashews, drizzled with cream.
- pinch of saffron threads
- 2 litres milk
- 1 kg (about 8) carrots, coarsely grated
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 cardamom pod, bruised
- 60 g sultanas
- 60 g ghee, melted
- 2 tbsp honey
- 150 g (⅔ cup) caster sugar
- 60 g cashews, toasted, roughly chopped
- ½ tsp rosewater (see Note)
- 45 g (⅓ cup) slivered almonds, toasted
- edible silver leaf (see Note) (optional) and thickened cream, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
If you like, tinker with the sweetness, adding a little less or more sugar to suit.
Soak saffron in 1 tbsp boiling water. Set aside.
Place milk in a large pan over medium–high heat and bring almost to the boil. Add carrots, cinnamon and cardamom, and bring to the boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 70 minutes until milk has reduced to less than a quarter.
Stir in saffron, saffron liquid and sultanas, and cook, stirring, for 35 minutes or until milk has evaporated. Stir in ghee until completely absorbed. Discard cinnamon.
Add honey and sugar, and cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until a rich, translucent orange. Stir in cashews and rosewater.
Spoon carrot halwa into bowls or glasses. Sprinkle over slivered almonds and serve topped with edible silver leaf, if using, and cream. The halwa will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
• Rosewater is a musky flavouring that is made by distilling rose petals. It is available from Middle Eastern food shops and select supermarkets.
• Edible silver leaf is sold as either thin flakes or sheets of silver of very high purity. It is available from Indian food shops (where it’s known as vark) and cake decorating shops. As it is very delicate, use tweezers to handle it.
Photography Chris Chen