When I baked the Yule Log for Christmas, one smart ass tried being funny and said “You only ever make all these firang things.”
Me: No! That’s a lie! I made ras malai for Diwali, didn’t I?
And then, the other day, I made some gajar halwa. It tasted just like mom’s. And that is saying a lot, even if I say so myself. Well, the two Siddharths who tasted it liked it too. One other person also tasted it, but I generally don’t take his opinion too seriously, because he doesn’t eat mushrooms. And he doesn’t eat eggs. And he doesn’t eat corn. And he eats only boneless chicken and calls himself a non-vegetarian (even though he is one of my closest friends. Ok, ok. Everybody knows it’s Yasho.)
All that said, I can now make good ras malai AND good gajar halwa. Alright, I will admit, the one thing I can’t cook decently is a good batata bhaaji. Also, chai. But it’s going to be a while before I am married. I’ll make sure I fix those two, before the parents of the husband raise any complaints. Hah!
I’ve also been thinking of how much money I spend when I make good food and comparing it against how much people charge, when they sell good food. And this time around, I actually did the math.
1.5 kilos of carrots – Rs 45/-
300 g khoya – Rs 90/-
1/2 litre milk – Rs 20/-
3-4 tablespoons of sugar
8-10 pods of elaichi/cardamom
2 teaspoons of ghee
(those last three put together, Rs 45/- ?)
That puts me at Rs 200/- for 12-15 bowls of gajar halwa (which my mum estimates is about 1.5 kilos of halwa, because you actually cook it down a whole bunch so that the carrots loses most of their water.)
And if I were to buy as much of it at a halwai, I’d probably pay Rs 300/- per kilo, upwards. If the effort involved were entirely not accounted for (in terms of money), most people who sell gajar halwa make a 100% profit on it, at a minimum. Which almost tempts me to do a price study for cupcakes or cookies. Innate Gujju traits die hard, I guess.
An aside about khoya:
It is similar to ricotta cheese, but lower in moisture and made from whole milk instead of whey.
1. Peel the carrots and grate them. This is possibly the toughest part of the whole deal.
2. Coat a thick bottomed pan with a couple of table spoons of ghee, so that the carrots don’t stick to the bottom of the pan, when you cook them.
3. Cook the carrots on low flame for a good 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they turn a bright orange-red colour and begin losing their moisture. The consistency of the cooked carrots at this point should be extremely soft and mushy, at this point.
4. Add the milk and stir the mixture for another 20 minutes (or so). The resulting consistency must be very porridge-like.
5. Now, add the khoya. Make sure it is crumbled (by bringing it down to room temperature before adding to the carrots) or grated (if it is still cold) into the carrot mixture. Stir constantly to ensure no white lumps of khoya remain. The consistency should be thick, and a spatula when stuck into the centre of the mixture, should stay (for about half a minute, instead of flopping over).
6. Add only as much sugar as you might like, by the tablespoon. The consistency of the halwa might loosen upon addition of the sugar, but cook it until it is back to the consistency described in (5), above.
7. Once the gajar halwa has cooled down, add some ground cardamom seeds and slivered almonds. Mix and serve. You can heat it a little before serving too, that’s how I’ve seen a lot of people eat gajar halwa. Me? As long as it’s there, I’m eating it!