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Carrot halwa is a traditional Indian dessert that uses the carrot in a unique way. This dish is basically composed of grated cooked carrots with some additional ingredients. A major dairy component also adds to the dish.
One of the first stages of making carrot halwa involves frying or sautéing nuts and other items in butter or clarified butter. Some cooks use a South Asian clarified butter called ghee. This provides a sort of base for the dish and helps to prevent burning when the dish is cooked in a pan.
Along with nuts, some cooks add raisins to the dish. This gives the finished product an additional sweet flavor. Other cooks add more sweeteners such as powdered sugar or similar products.
Typically, cooks grate carrots in relatively thick pieces, and add them to the pan or other cooking surface. At the same time, the cook will often add milk. The milk will boil down, providing some of the texture of the dish.
It’s important to note that, in addition to milk, many cooks who make classic Indian carrot halwa will also add milk products commonly called soft cheeses to the dish. In many cases, these cheeses are no more than the products of boiled milk that has been separated. A cook can strain milk solids through cheesecloth and use the remaining curds to provide a thicker milk addition to carrot halwa. Some call these products “paneer” or soft cheese; others might simply refer to them as milk solids.
In addition to providing the right sized pieces of grated carrots, it’s ideal to use a wider, flatter pan for carrot halwa in order to keep the cooking layer thin. This will help the cook to create a consistent texture for the dish. Some cooks will also add the secondary ingredients, such as raisins, at the end to keep these from overcooking.
The carrot halwa dish can be served in many different ways. One common presentation is the “molded bowl” method, where cooks mash a portion of the food into a container, then turn it upside down so that the food on the plate has a neat, consistent shape. Other dishes are presented at the bottom of a serving bowl, with various colorful garnishes. Some cooks arrange small garnishes in star shapes or other patterns on the surface of the carrot halwa. The finished result may be popular in gourmet restaurants or anywhere that this South Asian dish is known.
My husband loves carrot halwa and always orders it whenever we go to an Indian restaurant. I'm not fond of carrots, except in carrot cake, so I don't usually partake, but I know he loves it.
I keep saying I'm going to find a good recipe for carrot halwa, but I haven't yet. Maybe I'll try it for his birthday.