“Festivals are the secret to youth; show me a person who doesn’t remember a festival that was all about sweets, treats and friendship and I will show you an unhappy person.”
Here in the United States and most of the western countries, grown-ups and children are preparing to enjoy Halloween. Front lawns are adorned with lights and ghoulish decorations in a festive spirit.
In Singapore, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains will be preparing to celebrate Diwali, a Festival of Lights which also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. On the multi-cultural island nation, festive lights too will be strung across streets with decorations depicting lotus flowers, peacock feathers, lamps and other significant symbols in Hinduism. The blue, pink, purple, green and yellow lights along Orchard Road (a major retail and entertainment area) and Serangoon Road in Little India (a major tourist destination) will be a welcome distraction when you are sitting in traffic; one of Singapore’s lesser known secrets. Another lesser known tidbit is that the festival is called by the name more commonly used in Southern India – Deepavali. Deepavali is a Sanskrit term, meaning ‘row of lamps; Diwali is a contraction of Deepavali, so both words mean the same thing.
Indian desserts are rank up there along with Turkish desserts in my books (baklava, anyone?) Just thinking about it makes me imagine the rich texture melting in my mouth. Which is why I just had to try making this milk and ghee-based gajar (carrot) halwa myself. As it will be my first time attempting an Indian dessert, I hunted for an easy gajar halwa recipe. (Thanks to Dassana Amit from Veg Recipes of India!) Ghee is not a staple in my pantry, at least not yet! Not wanting to buy a bottle only to have it sit on the shelf unused for 3 months, I set out to make my own clarified butter since the recipe offers it in place of ghee. Clarified butter is butter with milk fat rendered and removed. Ghee is clarified butter with the milk solids caramelised then removed. Sounds simple enough. Here, thanks to Tori at Tori Avey!, her easy-to-follow pictures made it a breeze to clarify my own butter.
Here is my first take at Gajar Halwa. Adapted from Dassana Amit’s ‘Gajar Ka Halwa recipe with Condensed Milk’.
Deepawali ki Hardik Shubhkaamnayein!
- 2.2 lb /1 kg carrots, shredded
- 5 Tbsp clarified butter
- 11/2 tsp cardamom powder
- ½ can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup almonds, chopped
- ½ cup cashews, chopped
- ½ cup raisins (I did not add it this time)
- Grate carrots. See notes for more information.
- Heat clarified butter in a heavy pan. Add grated carrots and stir constantly till carrots are very tender.
- Add condensed milk and stir well. The mixture will appear to liquefy slightly.
- Add cardamom powder, chopped nuts and raisins.
- Lower heat to medium and keep stirring till liquid has evaporated and carrots are mostly dry.
- Add sugar if desired.
- Serve warm or chilled.
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