Turn carrots into dessert

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Roses are red, violets are blue, and carrots are orange. Ask any child with a box of crayons and a picture to color.

Actually, carrots come in a variety of colors, from light yellow to purple. You can thank the Dutch in the 16th century for genetically selecting to produce the orange carrot we enjoy today.

I was introduced to my first non-orange carrots while on a trip to India. I was in a small village near Delhi when a local woman came up to me and proffered a gorgeous bunch of red carrots. Because of the language barrier, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. After a lot of smiling, head nodding and pointing, I realized she was presenting them for me to admire.

Carrots are harvested in February in northern India. The main way to showcase them is a dessert called gajar halwa, or carrot pudding. Just as red carrots might seem strange, so might eating carrots as the main ingredient of a dessert. If you’ve ever been to an Indian buffet, though, you may have already eaten it without knowing, as it is the standard dessert.

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Although carrot halwa may seem exotic, it is made from simple, basic ingredients. Shredded carrots are cooked in milk, then sugar and ghee are added, then the dish is cooked further until it has a pudding-like consistency. Cardamom is added at the end to give it a distinct Indian flavor. The halwa is served at room temperature, topped with chopped nuts.

Ghee, or clarified butter, gives the carrot halwa a nutty flavor that pulls out and helps to incorporate the flavor of the cardamom.

You can make your own ghee by heating unsalted butter and discarding the milk solids. Fortunately, you also can buy ghee at all the local supermarkets. In the refrigerator, it will keep for a long time. It makes anything you saute in it extra delicious.

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Carrot halwa is a sweet pudding-like dessert. Serve it at room temperature, topped with nuts and raisins. (Julie Falsetti photo/For The York Dispatch)

Carrot Halwa

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar (add more if you like it sweeter)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Chopped nuts and golden raisins for serving

Bring the milk to a boil, then add the carrots. Cook, stirring often until the milk has evaporated, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the sugar, and cook until half the moisture has evaporated.

Finally, add the ghee, and saute until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the halwa is a bit jammy.

Stir in the ground cardamom.

Serve warm or at room temperature topped with chopped nuts and golden raisins.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.