Gajrela or Gajar Ka Halwa is popular Indian dessert in Northern India during the winter and spring months when dark red carrots are in season. Carrots are slow cooked with milk until they reduce to a tender fudge like consistency followed by the addition of mixed nuts, dry fruits and cardamom. Gajrela is a celebratory dish often made during family celebrations and cultural festivals such as Diwali, Holi and Vaisakhi (also known as Baisakhi).
Vaisakhi is the harvest festival of Northern India. A Thanksgiving of sorts, the festival is a celebration of the seasons harvest with prayers for abundant future crops. For the Sikh community it’s an especially important day as it marks the birth of the Khalsa. Prayers are offered at Gurudwaras, for good harvests and the auspicious color saffron is worn. The air is filled with celebration while kitchens are taken over by the aroma of authentic recipes.
Homemade Gajrela is a popular dish often made on Vaisakhi. The comforting sweet dessert is often served warm with a scoop of ice cream or Malai Kulfi. I personally love piping hot Gajrela with extra vanilla ice cream. This recipe is a great way to incorporate both ingredients while serving it in a sweet little cups.
It can be made ahead before company arrives. Molding the Gajrela into cups for the ice cream gives this traditional recipe a modern look. This dessert would be the perfect “Punjabi” ending to meals such as Makki di Roti and Sarson da Saag, Dal Makhani & Paneer Bhurji or Tandoori Chicken and Dal Tardka.
Tips and Tricks
- If you are making the Gajrela into cups a thicker consistency is desired, as it will mould better to the muffin pan.
- Chilling the Gajrela after you have pressed it into the moulds will help form the cups, if you want to serve it hot you can always warm it in the Microwave right before serving after the cups have been formed and removed from the muffin pan.
6 large carrots, grated
1/2 cup ghee or butter
3 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
3-4 saffron strands
3 tablespoon cashews, chopped
2 tablespoon almonds, chopped
1 teaspoon pistachios, chopped
- Melt the ghee/butter in a heavy bottom pan over medium heat; add cashews, almonds and pistachios. Lightly toast the nuts and add the grated carrots.
- Increase to high heat, add the saffron and milk, mix and let boil. Reduce heat to medium again and cook for 30 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the carrots become soft and the mixture thickens.
- Mix in sugar, heavy cream and cook for 20-25 minutes. Once thickened, remove from heat, add cardamom powder, mix and let cool.
Line muffin pan with plastic stretch wrap, take 2 tablespoons of Halwa, press down into muffin mold – firmly around the sides and bottom forming a cup. Refrigerate for an hour until firm.
- When ready to serve remove from mold, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, garnish with chopped pistachios and serve.
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