Gajar ka halwa

It’s not that I’m a great fan of gajar ka halwa, but of late these large red carrots have started appearing in the market, which, to someone born and raised in the north, speak eloquently of gajar ka halwa. I don’t have anything against the small orange carrots, it’s just that they speak somewhat half-heartedly – to whatever little extent they speak at all – of half-cooked carrot and peas without any masala of any kind, served alongside a slab of some kind of delicious meat, intended primarily to provide some colour to the plate and not really meant to be eaten. They certainly don’t look even vaguely related to gajar ka halwa.

However. The red carrots have been in the market for a couple of weeks at least, and some of them even found their way into my fridge, without resulting in gajar ka halwa. What tipped the scale, today, was the empty box lying in the kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong: there are always plenty of empty boxes lying in the kitchen. The cook comes and fills them up with nutritious but tasteless food and we struggle to empty them so that we can justify ordering in Chinese or pizza… It’s usually a losing battle – she fills them up faster than we can empty them. (And for doing us this huge favour, we actually pay her a good bit of money! It’s a strange world…)

This particular empty box, though, the one that prompted the gajar ka halwa, I mean, was not ours. It came from S&P loaded with some delicious puliyogray (how do you spell that in English???) and was due to be sent back some time in the foreseeable future, if I didn’t want S&P sending me food in disposable plastic cartons in future… I’ve mentioned before how I like not to send such containers back empty, if possible. But I’ve been lazy about cooking up stuff (especially vegetarian stuff) nice enough to actually give someone. Gajar ka halwa seemed to fit the bill.

Besides, while wandering on Commercial Street the other day, we had made the obligatory stop at Bhagatram, where I spied a huge pan full of gajar ka halwa. I never particularly liked their gajar ka halwa; I believe they make it by some shortcut method that involves boiling the carrot in water, when it actually has to be boiled in a vast quantity of milk, as everyone knows, and it takes forever and a day for the milk to reduce, and that’s what makes it so delicious.

So having seen the gajar ka halwa at Bhagatrams put me in the mood for eating it, but I knew that I’d have to make it first.

The thing is, it’s not a dish I make or ever have made regularly. I’ve probably made it three times in ten years of married life (and never before that). And like any dish worth its salt (or sugar), it’s an art that only practice makes perfect. So I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to ruin a perfectly peaceful Sunday with an experiment of this sort. Besides, Amit said he was not at all interested in gajar ka halwa and had never liked it.

Still, the cook had come and grated a pile of gajar before I started seriously considering the wisdom of this venture, and once you have a great big heap of grated carrot sitting in front of you, what are you going to do with it?

So I emptied over a litre of milk into the pressure cooker – the deepest saucepan in the kitchen – dumped in the pile of carrot (no idea how much it was by weight, so if you’re hoping for a recipe here, sorry, no dice) and put it to boil.

It boiled and simmered and as it reduced, it started to leave a sticky mess on the sides of the pan, which began to slowly burn… So after it had boiled and simmered for ever, I emptied it into a wide and shallow pan for the rest of the time. Then I did something very smart – I removed some of the excess milk and put it back into the pressure cooker, added an arbitrary quantity of jaggery (gur) to it and boiled it until it threatened to boil over. The jaggery made it a lovely thick, brown fluid which I eventually poured back into the carrot mixture, which had by then almost dried up. Another half hour of boiling, and it was done! Strangely enough, it was just sweet enough.

I thought I had made it ok-ish, but when Amit threatened to finish it off in 15 minutes flat, I guessed it must be pretty good. I managed to keep aside a little for that empty box, but the rest of it finished in far less time than it took to make. Which I suppose is a good thing, but it really didn’t feel that way at the time. Still, I’m not complaining.

Oh, what the heck, I guess I am!

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7 Responses to Gajar ka halwa

  1. Siri says:

    Im still the rasagulla lover!! My brother however just dies when it comes to gajar ka halwa.

  2. doug h says:

    Boy, Mika, I’ve never come across so many names for foods that I hadn’t the slightest idea what they represented.

    But I might be of some assistance in one case: the question was, what’s the English word for puliyogray?

    I think if you can describe it, I might be able to give you the English name for it. If that’s the phonetic spelling of it, then I’m in trouble! But if it’s the HIndi term for a food eaten in the US, I may be able to be of some assistance.

    Well, at the very least it’s a possibility!

  3. poupee97 says:

    Doug: Puliyogray or however you spell it – yes, it’s an attempt at a phonetic representation – is rice made with peanuts and, I think, tamarind. I don’t really know how it’s made, I just eat it…:-) It’s not a Hindi word either, I’m guessing it’s Tamil, though it could also be Kannada. I think there’s a commonly accepted English rendition of the word that you see on restaurant menu cards and so on, but I just can’t visualize it right now. Do you think you can help???

    Gajar ka halwa, or gajar halwa, or gajrela, as you’ve guessed from the procedure described above, is grated carrot cooked in milk and sweetened with sugar or something like it, to make a sticky mess that could loosely be termed a cake – but only very loosely. I’ll make you some the next time you’re in town. 🙂

  4. […] Gajar ka halwa « The Twins & I […]

  5. doug h says:

    Hmmm, rice with peanuts and tamarind. T’is a puzzlement!
    Actually,most American’s don’t know what tamarind is, (myself somewhat included, though I’ve had cool glasses of tamarind juice sold by Mexican street vendors on warm Summer days) although it’s a common….spice?…..fruit?…legume?….flavoring used by Mexican-Americans and, I imagine, South Americans.

    The closest I can come to giving it an English name is….. Well, see, Chinese restaurants have a dish called “kung pao”, which is rice and peanuts and hot peppers and carrots and usually chicken or another meat, all mixed together in a savory brown sauce made from some sort of bean.
    It doesn’t fit your description exactly, but there you have it: The closest English name I can come up with for it is Chinese!

  6. doug h says:

    Ok, after a bit of fooling around with various spellings in dictionary.com, I managed to come up with the following:

    Puliyogare

    Puliyogare is a South Indian rice preparation usually eaten as a snack. Puli means sour taste and Ogara means rice in Halegannada, thus Puliyogare translates as sour tasting rice. Puliyogare is also known as Puliodarai or Tamarind Rice and as Huli anna in some parts of karnataka.

    It is traditionally made using steamed or boiled rice mixed with tamarind juice, groundnuts or peanuts, coriander, coconut, red chilli, curry leaves, jaggery, pepper, mustard, fenugreek, turmeric, asafoetida, urad dal, and cumin. It is also prepared during festivals such as Diwali.

    Puliyogare is particularly known to be a specialty of the Iyengar community, and some of the best puliyogare can be found in South Indian Sri Vaishnava temples, associated with the Iyengar community.

    (Sounds interesting! And tasty!)

  7. poupee97 says:

    Doug: And to think that I could so easily have done this research myself…

    Yes, delicious it is, and puliogare is the word I was looking for, thank you.

    As for tamarind, it grows on a tree, so I guess it’s a seed, or perhaps a fruit. That’s all I need to know. It has a deliciously sour flavour. I’ve never heard of tamarind juice, though.

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