When I was little my dad would occasionally make gajrela and my brother and I thought it was the most magical and delicious thing in the world. So I thought today presented the perfect opportunity to make my version of this traditional celebration dish – it takes a little time to prepare but it’s so simple and you’ll definitely be thanked for your efforts.
Gajrela, or carrot halva, is a fudge-like dessert from the Punjab regions of Pakistan and India made from carrots, milk, ghee and sugar. Naturally sweet and vibrantly coloured from the carrots, rich and sticky from the sweetened milk and almonds and laced with cardamom, it’s a decadent and comforting sweet treat. In fact, there’s an unmistakable air of the exotic rice pudding about it, in both texture and milkiness – yes please!
So if you’re bored of your dessert repertoire and looking for something new, this Punjabi classic will not disappoint. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll have clean plates all round.
Although it is traditionally used, I have not used ghee in my recipe as, to many of us at least, it’s a bit of a niche ingredient…
Gajrela (carrot halva)
– 40g unsalted butter
– 500g carrots, grated (use a food processor to save time!)
– 600ml semi-skimmed milk
– 100ml condensed milk
– 40g ground almonds
– 8 cardamom pods
– 1-2 tablespoons caster sugar, (optional)
– small handful flaked almonds, to decorate
Heat the butter in a wide-based pan on a low-medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the carrots and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft.
Pour in the milk, bring to the boil, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the milk has all but evaporated. Tip: Pretend you’re making risotto – as the mixture begins to dry, keep stirring or the bottom will stick!
Whilst the milk is simmering, crush the cardamom pods, discard the husks and grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar.
Stir in the condensed milk, ground almonds and cardamom and simmer down for another 10-15 minutes, until almost dry. Sweeten to taste with the sugar, if using, and cook for another few minutes. Tip: Make sure the sugar melts otherwise your gajrela will be crunchy!
Scoop into bowls, cut into squares or roll into balls and serve hot or cold with the flaked almonds sprinkled on top.
Source: Recipe and photos from pip & little blue.