Familiar because I grew up in a part of India that is a major producer of sugar and consequently, molasses; and unusual because I never thought of using molasses as an ingredient.
Where I grew up, sugarcane production ruled the local economy. Tall stalks of sugarcane can be seen waving along vast expases of land. Seasonally, the sugarcane is harvested and sent to huge sugar factories to make refined sugar or to smaller cottage industries called gurhal to make jaggery or unrefined sugar. The process of making jaggery is fascinating and people often gather at the gurhal to watch and enjoy the process. You gather around a huge pan (the diameter is about 20 feet) in which sugarcane juice bubbles over a wood fire. This is where the you get to chew on sugarcane stalks, roast peanuts in the fire and enjoy local produce. Once the juice is thick enough, 6-10 men will grab the pan with a special harness and pour the juice into what looks like a swimming pool cut like a huge trough in the ground. This is the mould where the thick juice sets into jaggery and is then cut into blocks. The newly made foamy jaggery, scooped from the pool using sugarcane stalks, is the best candy I have ever tasted in my life.
But I digress. Molasses (kakvi in Marathi) is a by-product of sugar production and not of jaggery. We always had a bottle of the stuff lying around the house. Other than eating it with hot rotis as a snack, I can't for the life of me remember what it was used for.
For SHF#7, I decided to adapt a traditional Indian dessert, gajar halwa, a stove-top carrot pudding. Traditionally it does not contain molasses so this is a twist on the classic recipe. I love making gajar halwa, and people often request it but without a food processor, grating enough carrots for the halwa is painful. I was grocery shopping today and dawdling around the produce section when inspiration stuck. Why grate your own carrots when the nice folks at Dole will do it for you? So here it is, gajar halwa with a gooey twist.
Gajar Halwa with Molasses
10 oz. bag of shredded carrots (you lucky ones with fancy food processors can grate your own)
12 oz. can evaporated milk
3 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. cardamom powder
1/2 cup chopped cashews, pecans, walnuts, raisins
1 tbsp. butter
- Heat butter in a non-stick pan and stir fry the carrots and nuts/raisins for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the evaporated milk and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally till the mixture thickens quite a bit.
- Add the sugar, molasses, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring constantly till the mixture is almost dry.
These days in India it is very fashionable to serve gajar halwa with vanilla ice-cream. Me, I'm gobbling it down just like it is :) The molasses gives a wonderful complexity to the halwa. Many thanks to Derrick from An Obsession with Food and Wine for coming up with this challenging theme, and for writing this delicious round-up of molasses recipes.