When it comes to food, I like a theme. The first time I invited my now husband over to my apartment was foran ice cream social.That was soon followed by a “tacky party” which featured fruity cocktails and “candy kabobs” on miniature colored skewers all of which I served wearing a baby blue terry cloth tube top.
So I had a hard time when Humaira sent this halwa recipe my way with instructions to adapt it to the slow cooker. It didn’t fit any of my notions of dessert. It’s sweet like dessert, but it’s got enough carrots to qualify as a salad. And although we’re calling it pudding, that’s just because we don’t know what else to call it. It’s not creamy like a pudding, but it’s not a cake either. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before. But it is worth eating: gently flavored with cardamom and rosewater, warm, rich and satisfying.
Afghan halwa is related to halva, a sweet popular in India, the Near East and other parts of Central Asia. It is most commonly made not with carrots but with rice, wheat or semolina flour similar to this Afghan recipe here. I imagine it could be made with other sweet, hearty vegetables such as butternut squash and beets. Humaira says it’s delicious with apples. Like all desserts in Afghanistan, halwa is strictly a special occasion dish, a luxury for sure.
By conventional method, carrot halwa is prepared by combining grated carrots, milk, cream, butter and sugar (what’s not to like?) in a pot and letting it gently bubble away until the liquid absorbs and the carrot is tender. It’s topped with toasted pistachios or almonds. The recipe definitely requires some attention so if you have neither the time nor the patience, the slow cooker is a fine substitute. The texture is slightly different, but the flavor is just as good.If you like, feel free to add a ½ cup of dried currants or golden raisins to the halwa when it is done.
After making this recipe a few times, and eating more than my fair share, I’ve found my theme. It’s the perfect sort of thing to share with a friend over a cup of tea in the afternoon. Homey, warm, pleasing, nourishing, wholesome:a heck of a lot better than a candy kabob.
Recipe by Humaira
Rosewater and Cardamom Flavored Carrot Pudding
Halwa e Zardak
½ stick unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar (or ½ cup honey)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
½ cup whipping cream
pinch of salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. rosewater or vanilla
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pistachios, almonds or walnuts
Melt the butter and sugar (or honey) together in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring from time to time.You can also do this in the microwave.Pour the melted butter/sugar into the slow cooker and add the milk, cream, salt, cardamom and rosewater.Stir well.Add the grated carrots and stir again.Cook on low for 6 hours.
Stir well and serve warm or at room temperature with toasted nuts sprinkled over the top.
Serves 6 - 8
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