Thursday, 27 January 2011

Carrot (gajar) halwa

Halwa, or indeed halva and around a dozen or so other variations, seems to mean many things to many people. As Wikipedia states it can be be made of semolina, sesame, nuts, lentils or yams. However when I think of the Indian dessert halwa, I think of carrots. Carrot halwa is an unctuous and creamy mix of lightly spiced sweet carrot, fruit and nuts. I guess it's the Indian equivalent of carrot cake.
I was reminded recently that I've not had halwa for absolutely ages and as I had a large bag of carrots that needed to be used, this seemed the obvious solution. There are loads of recipes for carrot halwa with lots of variations on the exact ingredients, but the key ones are milk, sugar and carrots. This is what I've seen my mum using.

Recipe (easily enough for six):
1 kg carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp butter
Around 300ml full fat milk
Around 6 tbsp sugar
Around 6 cardamom pods, split to remove seeds
2 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp chopped pistachio nuts
0.5 tbsp flaked almonds

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed or non-stick saucepan, and fry the carrots over a medium heat. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and crush in a pestle and mortar (or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). After around 10 minutes add the milk, raisins and crushed cardamom, turn the heat down and leave to simmer for about 45 minutes stirring occasionally. Once most of the milk has evaporated add the sugar and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so. Do taste at this stage and add more sugar if it's not sweet enough. If it's looking too dry or in danger of sticking to the saucepan add a little more milk. What you should have is a thick but moist mix of cardamom scented carrot. When you're happy with the taste stir in the nuts, saving some of the almonds to garnish if you want.
I like this served while it's still warm with some cream or ice cream, but it's perfectly nice at room temperature too.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Caramelised red onion and mushroom quiche

So it's goodbye to 2010, and hello 2011- that seems to have gone incredibly quickly. Anyway I eschewed the traditional fizz, to start the new year with a quiche! Well not quite, but this is a pretty rich and indulgent dish which is great for a special occasion, but is also very simple to put together.

I used this basic recipe, but adapted it somewhat. I used trusty Jus-Rol to supply my shortcrust pastry. And for the filling, I slowly cooked two finely sliced red onions in a little olive oil and couple of stems of thyme for about 45minutes until they were soft and unctuous. Four sliced chestnut mushrooms then went in, and everything stirred around until cooked. Once cooled, this was mixed with the eggs and cream with a little salt and a generous grind of pepper. I also added big handful of grated emmental cheese.

I followed the rest of the instructions in the recipe by blind baking the pastry before cooking the entire quiche. I had a few issues with some over-flowing filling, but if this happens just use a few scraps of pastry to patch up any cracks or areas where the pastry has shrunk back. After about 45 minutes at gas mark 6 you should have a quiche that is golden on top but still moist inside. You can leave it to cool to eat at room temperature if you want, but I personally like this quiche still warm with some nice salads or other vegetables.
So in conclusion, quiche- a retro classic I'm planning to bring back in 2011!