The first time I had made Gajar-ka-Halwa, Rio ate it all! I did not know Rio had a sweet tooth somewhere inside that lean frame. But to devour a box of close to two pounds of Gajar-ka-Halwa at one go…well, how do you explain that!
Rio was a Doberman Pinscher I never had. I was only looking after him while his owners were away in America. Okay, so here is the story. I was in Delhi those days, all of 24 years old, working in one of the most prestigious Encyclopaedia companies. My job allowed me to rent an apartment in a building constructed according to Japanese architecture. The owners of which were Rio’s family. My only responsibility towards the dog was to show him some affection. He had a bunch of paid caretakers to look after him. But understandably so Rio misunderstood my obligations and pretty much spent all his happy hours in my apartment. In hindsight now, I think I must have given him some wrong signals – like scratching the back of his ears, giving him a bath, making chicken stew and rice for him, and letting him sprawl luxuriously on my bed!
He pretty much knew my work timings and would show up in the little courtyard on my floor at six o'clock on the dot every evening during the work week. He would then follow me around the apartment, wagging the little stub which was once a tail!
It was a late Sunday night that I had made my first Gajar Gajar-ka-Halwa, my Mum on the phone the whole time, giving me long-distance instructions. Monday was another day and I was off to work. My friend PK and I used to travel back from work together. On the way back, I mentioned my Gajar-ka-Halwa which was kept in the fridge. I knew her Mum liked this Indian dessert, and asked her to stop by my place and take some with her.
I packed a tupperware of Gajar-ka-Halwa and went to see PK off downstairs. Goodbyes being said, I climbed up to the fourth floor of my apartment.
Nothing seemed amiss in the five and a half minutes of my absence.
But what I saw next was very, very disturbing.
It was the Gajar-ka-Halwa box which was moved from its position on the kitchen counter to the marble floor of the kitchen!
The shift was perfectly executed. Rio was deeply engrossed, his snout rooted in the box, working his tongue vigorously on the cold Gajar-ka-Halwa. With each lap, a chunk of the halwa vanished. I stopped in my track and screamed – RIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
I saw Rio see me with the corner of his eyes. But he pretended he did not hear me. That really blew my top! I am someone who when extremely angry can only do the most unpredictable thing – cry like a baby!
Fat drops of tears rolled down my face as I saw that canine devour my Gajar-ka-Halwa! He looked smug and satisfied. On his way out, I felt his warm, wet nose touch my hand as if to thank me.
Ingredients for the Gajar-ka-Halwa are:
1 liter milk
500 grams carrots, grated
1 cup heavy cream
Half cup desi ghee
7-8 teaspoons granulated sugar
Handful of shelled unsalted pistachios
Handful of almonds
Handful of raisins
Few strands of saffron (optional)
Couple of bay leafs
Few green cardamoms
Boil milk, heavy cream, carrots, saffron, nuts and raisins, bay leaf and 4-5 green cardamoms in a large, heavy bottom pan.
Keep stirring it all the time. You will notice that the mixture will reduce to less than one-fourth of its actual quantity. This will happen over 2-3 hours of slow-medium cooking and continuous stirring.
Once all the milk has evaporated, add the desi ghee and fry the carrot mixture again.
Once the carrots get back their rich, orange color add the sugar. Sugar and heat make syrup, make sure you turn the heat to the lowest mark and then add it.
Keep drying till the mixture is almost dry of any moisture. And you get a texture like this-
Sprinkle some chopped pistachios and powdered green cardamoms. Serve the Gajar-ka-Halwa hot.
This is as close carrots can get to being a gourmet Indian dessert. I also have a sneaking suspicion Gajar-ka-Halwa was the only gourmet food Rio came close to in his doggy dog life!