I was brought up in Cumbria, and on days when the roar of January gales rattled the tiles on our roof, mum would take her cue from the weather gods and set about making halwa—it’s a pudding best appreciated in the depths of winter. I remember helping scrub mud off the carrots, before they were grated and simmered in a cavernous pan of cardamom milk. Her fudgy, sweetly spiced, carrot halwa reached places that the central heating couldn’t hope to warm.
The trick is to buy really good quality carrots—spend a few pennies extra and go for the sweetest you can find. You’ll know if they are any good, because they won’t leach out loads of water when they’re grated. Then there’s the milk—steer clear of semi-skimmed stuff, you want full cream for this dish—and I’m a stickler for quality spice. Buy the superior whole green pods, rather than bleached white ones.
3 litres full cream milk
32 whole green cardamom pods
6 tbsp raisins
3 tbsp almonds or pistachio nuts, skinned
375g caster sugar
Peel and coarsely grate the carrots.
Put the carrots, milk and cardamom pods in a heavy pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the milk has evaporated. This should take about 90 mins—it’s worth the wait, though.
Melt the butter in another large, sturdy pan, add the carrot mixture, stir and fry over a moderate heat until the carrots lose their wet, milky appearance—about 15 mins.
Soak the raisins in enough warm water to cover and leave to one side for 10 mins. While the carrots are cooking, shred the skinned nuts and bake at 170C for about 10 mins, until lightly coloured. Leave on one side.
Add the sugar to the carrots and cook, stirring, for another 10-15 mins, until the halwa becomes fudge-like and darker in colour. Stir in the drained raisins and shredded nuts and serve piping hot.
Recipe: Roopa Gulati