Paleo Garaj Halwa (Indian Carrot Pudding)
I am a big fan of Indian food, and after trying conventional carrot pudding at a restaurant, I determined to make my own version of it without dairy or added sweetener. Regular garaj halwa is made with heavy cream, ghee and sugar. Removing the sugar and allowing the sweetness of the coconut milk and carrots to stand on their own merit makes it a great paleo recipe.
The beauty of this dish is that it is substantial enough to be a dessert OR a side dish to your favorite savory protein. For best results, use fresh cardamom pods and grind the seeds yourself. If there is no whole foods store close to you, look for an Indian grocery store.
First, grate the carrots and squeeze out the excess moisture. You want the carrots nice and dry to absorb the coconut milk. After squeezing them out, put them in a plastic colander and let them drain for a while longer.
While the carrots are draining, get out a large saucepan and toss the shelled pistachios in with the coconut oil. Simmer the nuts in the oil for just a few minutes to allow them to soften and take on the flavor of the oil.
Once the pan, oil and nuts are nice and warm, add the grated carrots and pour in the coconut milk. Make sure that the milk is evenly distributed throughout the carrots.
Simmer uncovered at medium heat. You want the initial heat to cook out what water is left in the carrots, as well as to thicken the coconut milk.
Once the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, turn the heat down low. When the mixture has “calmed” and the bubbling has ceased, stir in the cardamom (and turmeric if you decide to use it). Let the mixture simmer uncovered thirty minutes to an hour for the carrots to fully absorb the coconut milk.
The longer it simmers, the thicker and more pudding-like your garaj halwa will be. The carrots will soften and the milk will thicken until the consistency is similar to bread pudding.
As I said above, this dish is very sweet by virtue of the ingredients alone. However, if you desire a sweeter dessert, a tablespoon or two of local honey goes a long way toward sweetening it into something more decadent.
I defy you to not lick the pan!