Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Carrot Almond Halwa

Sometimes it is only a mental block that keeps me from trying recipe variations. For instance, I am so accustomed to dairy-based Indian desserts that wrapping my head around vegan Indian desserts can befuddle me. A few years ago, I cooked lunch for a group of vegan guests. The appetizers, main dishes, salads and sides all were a breeze but I tripped up while planning dessert and  resignedly served a platter of fruit.

Vaishali's posts are doing much to help me make vegan versions of Indian desserts- she makes delectable vegan halwas of every hue with no dairy in sight. Using her gajar halwa as my inspiration, I made this version yesterday. To mimic the gritty texture of cooked-down milk/khoya, I used some almond meal.

Gajar Halwa That Just Happens To Be Vegan

(serves 4)
  1. Shred 2 lbs. organic carrots using a hand grater or a food processor.
  2. In a heavy pan, heat 2 tbsp. Earth Balance buttery spread.
  3. Saute the carrots until bright red.
  4. Stir in 1 cup almond milk and 4 tbsp. almond meal (or finely ground almonds).
  5. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture reduces and the carrots are cooked.
  6. Stir in 1 tsp. cardamom and sugar to taste (I only needed a quarter cup or so).

The taste of the gajar halwa was wonderful. It is light and nutty and something I will be making again and again, whether or not I have vegan guests.
I shared this halwa at a cook-out last night with a group of St. Louis food bloggers. We met in the incredible teaching kitchen of the Kitchen Conservatory (candyland for foodies), and I'm so glad Alanna put in the time and effort to organize this event. St. Louis has many creative and clever food bloggers. They do all sorts of fun things like keep bees and grow garlic and match shelter dogs to families!
If you are a food blogger, have you met other food bloggers in your city?
On The Bookshelf

I read more than my fair share of novels and magazines, but one of my favorite genres will always be non-fiction. They say truth is stranger than fiction and I certainly believe that based on the non-fiction I've read.

When written with humor and expertise, non-fiction books can give us a crash course in a serious academic discipline and connect abstract concepts in maths and science and technology with real life. I recently read The Drunkard's Walk by Leonard Mlodinow and it was a most entertaining glimpse into the role of statistics in everyday life. Another highly fascinating and riveting read was The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, which is a great detective story of a physician chasing a microbe (and sparking off the science of epidemiology) even though he did not even know it at the time.

This morning I awoke at 4 AM to finish reading Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, the real story of a family in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Eggers is a talented writer. The story is written so simply but the narrative is gripping and you get deeply engaged with the characters as the story progresses. I highly recommend this book.

There are two non-fiction books that I read in recent months that had rich and meaningful content but where the writing was unfortunately very jagged and rambling, in my opinion, which took away from the reading experience. These were Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen about one man's struggle to build schools in remote regions of Central Asia and Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, about the life and work of Paul Farmer in bringing healthcare to the most impoverished regions of Haiti. But these are the kinds of books that are worth reading, because they make me want to do something meaningful and with my life and stop making excuses already.

Next on the non-fiction list, I'm going to start with a  memoir called In Hanuman's Hands by Cheeni Rao; I read Kamini's stunning review of the book and checked it out from the library this weekend.

Have you read any interesting non-fiction lately?


  1. Still reading 3 Cups of Tea. The writing is throwing me off at times but I am liking it

    Gajar halwa without the milk/kheer looks delicious

  2. thank you for posting the recipe! This dish was delicious, as were they all. You were an excellent instructor and ambassador for veg-cooking.

  3. Wow, Nupur, nice healthy halwa, yum, yum, yum... I have just started growing carrots in my garden, so I guess this will be the first thing I will make, but where do you get "Almond Milk"? I have never heard of it before.

  4. Nupur, so happy you tried the gajar halwa-- and great idea to use some almond meal instead of waiting for the almond milk to boil down. I will be sure to try your variation the next time I make this.

  5. The gajar badam halwa looks yummy!
    When it comes to books, I am the opposite....can't get myself to read non-fiction. I don't mind reading history related non-fiction, like the City of Djinns which is non fiction camouflaged in a story.

  6. now a days hardly get the time to read books....still have a couple of novels in hand just hanging around my shelf, neglated...reading ur feedbacks again get the inspiration to finish those books and grab for these...

    BTW The halwa looks grt....

  7. yummy version of halwa,...looks so temptin.

  8. same here..hv never tried vegan desserts.. need to try..
    thanks for sharing..

  9. 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks', something you will definitely appreciate, given the hours you spent hunched over the microscope looking at those cells. :)

    I actually enjoyed 'three cups of tea'... and 'Mountains beyond mountains' became one of those books that sort of puts everything in perspective for me. I found it truly inspirational and even now I end up recommending it to everybody. And it has been more than two years now that I read it. :D

  10. Drooling over your Halwa Nupur, Can I stop by for a quick snack :-)

    I will check out the book by Cheeni Rao next. Well written review by Kamini.

    I loved reading the girl with the dragon tattoo and I just finished reading "the girl who played with fire". I am still working on "Winter in Madrid".

    I have checked out couple of DVDs from my library that teach how to knit - Thanks to one inspirational knitter by the name Nupur :-) But I haven't gone much further yet.

    Thanks for getting me started with knitting.

  11. I've never had Halwa and this looks good. Just curious about step number 6. Did you mean to write "I only needed a quarter cup or so"? Did you put more sugar or did you mean quarter teaspoon? Thanks.

  12. Bong Mom- I'm glad you are enjoying it, it is quite an inspiring story, isn't it?

    Lisa- I should have given you some halwa to take home last night, there was quite a bit left over! Glad you enjoyed the evening :)

    Priya (Yallantapula) Mitharwal- You're growing carrots, how cool is that! Good luck with your gardening. Almond milk is when you make an almond paste and strain out the liquid to be used as non-dairy milk substitute. It is sold in tetrapaks in stores in the US, you should be able to find it very easily. It can also be made at home.

    Vaishali- Your vegan mithai and sweet recipes are awesome, I really enjoy them. Thanks for sharing them.

    Sangeetha- I am quite the opposite, not much of a history buff at all, unless it is the history of science or medicine :)

    Kamalika- Yes, I have half-read books hanging around too!

    notyet100- Thanks

    J- Vegan desserts are wonderful, worth a try.

    Sujayita- Oh yes I put a hold on the HeLa book the minute I read the NYTimes book review but it just came out so it might be months before I get my hands on it!

    Viji- I'm so thrilled to hear that! I hope you enjoy learning to knit :)
    So many people have mentioned the dragon tattoo book, I should read it soon.

    Shirley- I meant that I added a quarter cup of sugar but you can add more or less sugar depending on how sweet you prefer the dessert to be, and also how sweet your carrots were to begin with. A quarter teaspoon of sugar would barely add any sweetness.

  13. I really liked three cups of tea. I'm reading white tiger right now.

  14. Oh wow...this almond-carrot is definitely a great combo and even in taste too. Look yum...yum! The waem carrot halwa is my all-time fav but haven't had this in a while.
    Current book reading: You're so fast reader. I'm still reading the same book. :(

  15. I recently read 2 non-fiction books which I liked. 'A New Earth' by Eckhart Tolle - a spiritually awakening book. 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell was thought provoking.

  16. Looks great. I use little bit of firm tofu as well to this and that also tastes great.

  17. Mountains Beyond Mountains was excellent. I too like non-fiction. Recently I read Bill Bryson's biography of Shakespeare, which was witty, light and interesting. Despite Bryson's reputation as a wag, the book was serious in its intent. It wasn't a big joke. I also read and enjoyed, "Undress Me in The Temple of Heaven" a travel memoir which starts light and inconsequential, but gets better & better and has a rather serious ending. Amusing at times, horrifying at times.

    As for fiction, I've just been reading mysteries. And I did go back & re-read J.D. Salinger's 9 Stories, which is brilliant, especially "For Esme With Love & Squalor."

  18. lovely lovely carrot halwa. always a satisfying dessert for me attached with several memories. i've made it with almond, soya and coconut milk which also make great flavor combinations. hope you are having a lovely Spring in St. Louis!

  19. Did you not enjoy reading "Three Cups of Tea"? I didnt find it difficult or boring, and I thought Greg Mortenson absolutely amazing and his story so inspiring! I read it at the same time as I was reading another book, about a hi-flying executive who's discontented with his jet-setting life and swanky Paris apartment and moves to the countryside (in the UK) to rediscover himself ... but I couldnt tell you much more than that because after reading about Greg Mortenson, I could NOT bring myself to finish the other book. The writer so TOTALLY came across as a spoilt brat! :)

  20. Looks great. i love the taste of it best when its fresh.. yummy!

  21. u are right abt the writing style.. if its rambling it does get boring to pull thru.
    GAjar ka halwa looks good even without the milk. U don't use diary?

  22. Thanks for the warm words, Nupur. I'd love to read what you think of Cheeni Rao's book.
    I feel I need fiction to nourish my soul, and the non fiction reading is to feed my brain! Right now, I am reading "The Indian Clerk" by David Leavitt, a novelized account of the lives of the great mathematicians Ramanujan and Hardy and their amazing collaboration in Cambridge University. Earlier, I had read Ramanujan's biography by Robert Kanigel, "The Man Who Knew Infinity", a terrific read.
    When I find a recipe that works, I find it so hard to try others - yours is one of the few endorsements I take seriously - so I will definitely give this carrot halwa recipe a try!
    Hope Dale is doing well. I loved your earlier updates about him!

  23. i live in the US too...where can i get almond milk and what brand shud i use...

  24. I am not too fond of sweets.. my sweet tooth is satisfied very easily with some small bites. But carrot halwa is one of my favorites and I do not make too frequently as I devour it entirely by myself. Loved your use of Almond milk. I drink almond milk in the morning. will use it in halwa next time as I do not like my halwa with too much milk or cream.

  25. love your reading list as much as you recipes... :)
    I too must make the gajar halwa soon... I am just lazy to grate the carrots by hand and I don't have a food processor :)

  26. we dont have a halfway decent library here in Goa so absolutely envy u..
    btw the halwa looks fantastic!!!!! its my fav indian dessert...although ur version sounds super( sadly i dont think almond milk will be available around here..)

  27. Veggie Belly- White Tiger is on my to-read list; will get to it someday.

    Sonia- Reading is not a race, it is fun to take your time and savor a book!

    Anamika- I heard a lot about A New Earth when Tolle was all over Oprah. I loved Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and hope to read Outliers soon.

    Mints!- Ooh, I can see how firm tofu would add to the texture.

    Diane- I have never read any of the books you mentioned and they all sound very interesting. And I'll have to find 9 stories right away. Thanks for the recommendations.

    MeetaK- All your variations sound fantastic! Yes, we are enjoying the most beautiful Spring weather here in St. Louis, am taking in big gulps of it while it lasts :)

    Shyam- I did enjoy Three Cups of Tea but I did not like the writing style is all. For me, it did not flow well. I agree, his work and the story is amazing and inspiring!

    Maaya- Thanks!

    Mallugirl- I do eat and use dairy but I love having non-dairy versions of recipes, because (a) I have several friends who don't eat dairy either because of lactose intolerance or because they are vegan, and (b) the non-dairy version is lighter in terms of taste and calories, which is great for the warm weather coming up.

    Kamini- I love your categorization of fiction and non-fiction! Both books on Ramanujan sound fascinating, I must try and find them.
    Dale is doing very well. The weather has been lovely and we have been going on long walks in the park.

    Anonymous- I use Almond Breeze brand which is available in all stores at least in St Louis.

    Soma- Like you, I enjoy sweets in only the tiniest doses. I love pouring almond milk on my cereal :)

    Indhu- In my pre-food processor days, I sometimes took a short cut and bought shredded bagged carrots at the store. Grating huge amounts of carrots is no joke!

    s- Yes, I understand, the public library system is my very favorite thing about living in the US. Almond milk can be made at home with just almonds and water and a mixie, contact me if you need recipes.

  28. 4 am??? What time do you go to bed, if at all??
    Btw, this halwa seems delicious, will definitely have to give it a try!

    - V

  29. That halwa is on my to -do list!
    I read three cups of tea and found it moving and inspiring!

  30. Hi Nupur! This is Zoee Gokhale (Perrine as of recently!) I don't know if you remember me from Xavier's (I think I was one or two years your junior). "Open-ended" might ring a bell. If not, that's okay ... I had the measuring cockroach respiration idea ... just thought I'd give that one more try.
    Arnaz (a life-sc classmate of mine) told me about your blog and that you live in St. Louis. Turns out ... so do I, moved here a couple years ago.
    Anyway, been meaning to drop you a line and say that I really enjoy reading your blog and that I identify with you in a lot of ways. I also love to cook and have too many other things that interest me (other than work I mean) for my own good!
    I don't want to ramble on .. just stopped by to say that I love your blog! Hope you enjoy the beautiful weather!

  31. I enjoy reading your blog and visit often, but leaving a comment for the first time. I could not finish reading 'Three Cups of Tea'. It was indeed too rambling. Cheeni Rao's book is haunting and intense, and left me thinking for a long time. I have enjoyed all of Malcolm Gladwell's books, and currently reading 'What the Dog Saw'. Three books I recently read and enjoyed: 'The House on Sugar Beach' by Helene Cooper; 'Sea of Poppies' by Amitav Ghosh; and 'Eat, Pray Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert. Another great book is 'River of Fire' by Qurratulain Hyder.
    Carrot halwa looks yum!

  32. tasteofbeirut- Yes, the story is very inspiring!

    Zoee Gokhale- I do remember you. Thank you for stopping by to say hello! How nice to know that you live in St. Louis- yes, we have gorgeous weather this week, don't we? Hope all is well with you.

    Meera- I'm glad to know I am not the only one who thought Three cups of tea rambled on. Thank you for all your book recommendations- I am going to look for them. I loved Sea of Poppies but hated Eat, Pray, Love.

  33. Thank you for the lovely book recommendations - I look forward to hearing about new books :)

  34. Hi Nupur,

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful vegan version. My niece is lactose intolerant and I made this for her today. Though I lost patience in between the stirring but anyways it tastes really good compared to the usual full fat version and I guess all of my guests ate more than the usual amount as it was light and not too heavy.


  35. Wonderful halwa...looks delicious.

  36. This looks really good! I may incorporate it into a cupcake somehow. :)

  37. Gajar halwa with almond milk sounds wonderful, Nupur. Isn't the Drunkard's walk one of the most interesting non-fiction reads! i thoroughly enjoyed the book to the point of re-reading it. I read what the dog saw recently in non-fiction and was thoroughly disappointed; right now Julie and Julia is whats in the shelf now.

  38. Wow...! Gajar Halwa is my all time favorite...Looks yummy...first time here...u have a wonderful space with neat presentation...will be here often..Do drop in at my blog sometime..

  39. Hi, Nupur: You've been reading up a storm! For myself, I've mostly been on novels, lately, but I really enjoy nonfiction, too. All of the books you mentioned sound very interesting and worthwhile. Oh—I guess I am reading one nonfiction book, a bio of country singer Tammy Wynette. But I've really only just started it.

    Happy reading...

  40. Hi Nupur,

    Wish I could have attended your cooking class. Looks like you made some delicious dishes!!

  41. That color looks so pretty. Really wanna try this out. yummy yummy

  42. The Halwa looks yummy! I just started reading the Audacity to Win & read Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone last week.


  43. Hi Nupur,
    love ur blog been a regular since u put it up in SAARC on Ravelry.
    I'd like to know if you have read In Hanuman's Hands and what's ur opinion of it. After reading the review you mentioned I had recommended it for the GoodReads book group but not so sure now.

    Thanks and keep up the good work on the blog.
    Amrita (amrita29 on Rav)


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