Next in my quest to veganize Indian sweets, especially the ones I miss the most, is the gorgeous, almost healthy carrot halwa or gajar halwa.
The period roughly between August and November is festival season in India. Mind you, there are many many Hindu festivals scattered through the year, but some of the biggest ones happen during this period, including Ganesh Chaturthi, Dassera, and Diwali, the mother of all Hindu celebrations.
This is the time to cook and eat all sorts of delicious sweets, and each region has their own favorites for each festival. Growing up, my family always took care to match the sweets with the festival. Me, I cannot be bothered to remember, so I just cook whatever sweet I have a mind to if I feel like it, if I have the time, and if Desi lobbies me hard enough.
Last Friday, after reading about the wonderful Dassera celebrations on the Indian food blogs, I just had to make a sweet dish. I had a bag of carrots in the refrigerator, so carrot halwa it was.
Carrot halwa is a popular sweet in Indian kitchens, and it’s easy to see why. The carrots are boiled in milk until they are melt-in-your-mouth tender and sweet, and then they are fried in ghee. Of course, all that milk and ghee adds a bazillion calories, but who cares when the end result is as mindblowing as it is?
Well, I do, and besides, I don’t cook with milk nor ghee. For my vegan carrot halwa, I used almond milk which, at 40 calories a cup, has almost a third of the calories of whole milk and less than half those in skim milk. And trust me, you would never taste the difference. I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking, and it called for three cups of milk. So right there I lopped off nearly 200 calories.
Next I used 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to fry the halwa instead of the 5 tablespoons of ghee in the original recipe.
I used turbinado sugar, which gave the halwa a really rich red color, but you can always use regular sugar. Feel free to use less: the carrots themselves are very sweet and you really only need a little to your taste.
So here it is, my vegan carrot halwa. Easy, delicious and, heck, even good for you. Believe me, you won’t feel a tug in your waistline after eating this, but you might feel a tad beatific.
- Put the carrots, cardamom pods and almond milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated. This took me about 45-50 minutes.
- In another saucepan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the carrots and fry, stirring, until the carrots turn a rich red. This will take around 15-20 minutes.
- Now add the sugar and stir until it's well mixed. Add the cashews and raisins and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes.
- Take off the heat. The halwa can be eaten warm or at room temperature or even cold. Any which way, it's quite delicious.