Spring greens may be old hat by now, but native berries and imported peaches are somehow still there: with the best of citrus now behind us, we’re still in the so-called hungry gap for results. So, here’s to rescuing the roots of this South Asian classic – to quote Meera Sodha, “If eating carrots as pudding sounds weird, remember how good spicy carrot cake is.”
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 45 minutes
6 cardamom pods
4 cloves (optional)
Grated coconutor a pinch of ground cinnamon, to taste (optional)
25g of ghee
250ml evaporated milk
A pinch of saffron (optional)
50g soft light brown sugar
50g white sugar
A handful of raisins or sultanas (optional)
20g milk powder (optional)
A handful of slivered pistachios, almonds or cashews
A few pinches of desiccated coconut (optional)
1 Crush the cardamom (and any other spices)
Gently press the cardamom pods just to open them, remove the seeds, then roughly crush to a powder in a mortar (or use a heavy knife). For a more complex flavor, you could crush four cloves into a powder and/or add a generous grate of coconut or a pinch of cinnamon.
2 Prepare the carrots
Peel or scrub the carrots clean, then coarsely grate them. If you are in a hurry, or a smoother consistency appeal, you could grate them more finely, which means that the dish cooks faster, but I prefer the stronger, uneven texture of the coarsely grated vegetables.
3 Fry the cardamom (and other spices)
Place the ghee in a wide, heavy-based pan over medium-high heat (you could use butter instead, but if so, be careful it doesn’t burn), then fry the ground cardamom (and other spices, if using). ) for a minute or so, until aromatic.
4 Stir in the carrots
Add the grated carrots and a pinch of salt, lower the heat slightly, stir to coat the carrot with ghee and spices, then fry, stirring constantly, for five minutes. Turn up the heat and cook, stirring, for 10-15 minutes, until the carrots are soft and dry; take care that they do not catch and burn.
5 Add the milk and saffron
Pour in the evaporated milk (you can substitute 500ml fresh milk, if you like, but it will take longer to cook without the evaporated content), then stir in the saffron, if using use – as well as its flavour, the saffron will help give the dish the traditional red color associated with the deeper carrot variety popular in southern Asia.
6 Reduce simmer
Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the carrots, stirring regularly, until most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving a wet but not mushy mixture – depending on the pan you’re using and strength to hob, this should take about. 20 minutes.
7 Mix the sugar and the dried fruit
Add the sugar and dried fruit, if using (if you’re not a fan of grape fruit, you could use almost anything you like instead, from chopped dried apricots or dates to crystallized pineapple or banana dried), and continue to cook, still stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens enough to hold its own shape.
8 Add the optional milk powder
Stir in the milk powder, if using – although it’s optional, it will give the rich flavor and slightly grainy texture of many Indian sweets – and cook for another minute. Leave to cool slightly while you chop the nuts to sprinkle on top (the desiccated coconut is nice too). Check the seasoning and adjust as needed before serving.
9 Change the theme
For maximum effect, caramelize the nuts first, as Sodha suggests in her book Fresh India. Melt 60g of butter in a small pan, then, when it foams, stir in 80g of nuts (she’ll use pecans), a tablespoon and a half of powdered liquor or brown sugar, and a third of a teaspoon of garam masala. Stir until the sugar melts, then place the nuts on a heatproof tray lined with baking paper to cool.