Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Indian, Sweets

Carrot Halwa – a seasonal delight

carrots stacked in the marketIndian cooking highly emphasizes eating right for the season and using seasonal produces. We have festivals based on change of season and harvests; and dishes based on the ingredients available in a season. Winter is the season for undhiyu, thiruvathira puzhukku (similar to undhiyu), gond (gum resin) laddu, carrot halwa, and the likes. It’s the season for red carrots (usually only orange carrots are available during other seasons). The red carrots stacked in the subzi mandi (vegetable market) invariably tempt me to make carrot halwa.

carrot halwa

Ingredients:
Carrots – 250 gms
Milk – 1 cup
Sugar – 100 gms
Ghee – 100 gms
Almonds/raisins/cashewnuts – 8-10 pieces
Elaichi powder – 1/4 tsp

Method:
Soak the almonds in water for half an hour and peel and cut to small pieces. Cut the cashewnuts into smaller pieces. Wash, peel, and grate the carrots. Place a thick wok on fire and pour a teaspoon of ghee. Roast the almonds, cashews and raisins in this ghee. When the nuts and raisins turn golden brown, remove from fire and keep aside.

Pour milk into the thick wok. Empty the grated carrot into milk and cook in medium fire. Stir occasionally. You can use water instead of milk or use a mix of milk and water. The advantage of using milk is that you can cut down on the usage of ghee.

When the milk is fully absorbed and the grated carrot is tender and cooked, lower the flame and add sugar. At this stage, the mixture becomes a little loose. Stir occasionally and cook until all the water is fully absorbed. You can modify the quantity of sugar depending on your taste.
Add ghee in small quantities, mix, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add elaichi powder and the roasted nuts and raisins. Mix well. Remove from fire. You can serve carrot halwa hot or cold. Try it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

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Breakfast, Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Tiffin

Pazham Nurukku/Jaggery Coated Plantain/Steamed Plantain

Plantains are an integral part of Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala. Malayalis cannot think of an Onam without plantains. Keralites leverage plantain in all its forms and age. Raw plantains are deep fried and salted or jaggery coated to make chips, or used to make mezhukkupuratti (dry vegetable dish), erisseri, kalan etc. The ripe ones are steamed, cooked in jaggery, used to make payasam (kheer/sweet pudding), or eaten as is. The flower and the shoot (after peeling layers) are used to make dry vegetable dish. The peeled layers are used as binding ropes or for stringing garlands. Plantain leaves are used as plate to serve food and to make ela ada. In places with waterways, the shoots of a plantain are tied together to make a platform and used as a country boat.

Semi-ripe nenthra pazham

A very ripe plantain can be eaten as is without cooking. But semi ripe plantains should preferably be steamed or baked. I will share 4 simple recipes of ripe plantain here. One using overripe plantain and the other three using medium ripe plantain. Choose ripe yet firm plantain for steamed plantain. Slightly overripe plantains are best suited to make the jaggery coated plantain. This goes well with items like puttu or upma. It is also a healthy snack by itself.

Sweet banana cooked in jaggeryMethod 1:
Ingredients
Ripe Plantain – 2
Jaggery – 2 pieces
Water – 1/2 cup
Ghee – 1 tsp (optional)
Elaichi/cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp (optional)

Peel the plantain and remove the ends and the peel. Cut into two-inch round pieces. In a pan, pour water and add the jaggery pieces and heat until the jaggery melts. Strain to remove dirt if any. Put the ripe plantain pieces into this melted jaggery, cover with a lid, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in between to ensure that the bananas do not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the water content reduces, the jaggery syrup thickens, and plantain pieces become tender, add ghee and elaichi powder. Turn off the fire and serve hot. You can even serve it cold. If you use firm plantain, they turn hard when cooked in jaggery. So make sure that you use ripe or overripe plantains. Note: I used organic jaggery and hence the dark color. Jaggery available in the market are heavily treated with chemicals which reduces the natural intense color.

Method 2:
Ripe Plantain – 1

Peel the plantain and remove the ends. Do not remove the peel. Cut into two inch round pieces. Steam them in an idli tray for 10 minutes until the plantain becomes tender. This is served with ela ada and fried papad for breakfast on the Thiruvonam day especially in the Malabar region. Plantains are fibrous and have high starch content. Steamed plantain is easily digestible especially for kids and the elderly and instantly boost energy levels.

Method 3:
Ripe Plantain – 1
Sugar – 1 tsp
Ghee (clarified butter) – 1 tbsp

This is a sinfully yummy shallow fried treat. Peel the skin and cut the plantain into thin vertical slices. Smear ghee on the hot griddle and place the plantain slices on ghee.

Frying bananas

Cook for a minute in medium to low fire. Flip when you notice the bottom of the plantain is turning golden brown. Sprinkle sugar.

Flip over

Remove from fire when the other side is sufficiently fried/cooked.

caramelized sugar on banana

Cooked

Method 4:
Ripe Plantain – 1

Another method of cooking plantain is to bake it in charcoal. Traditionally when meals were cooked using firewood, the coal would be hot even a couple of hours after all the cooking is done. Put the ripe plantains (with their skin) in between the hot coal. Make sure the plantains are fully embedded in the coal pieces. Take out after 5 minutes and smoky chargrilled plantains are ready.

I saw yet another interesting variety here. Truly yummy variation. Check it out.