Fajar ka halva takes me home, and it is re-creatable in most places. Today, I’m recreating it in Scotland, using local produce, and don’t need many unusual ingredients, and takes an hour to make. Scottish carrots change the flavor, but gajar ka halva nonetheless tastes like Karachi—maybe because the spirit of the recipe never changes, nor the love with which it is cooked. To me, gajar ka halva evokes a deep sense of heritage. I find it is the ultimate Pakistani celebratory dessert, no matter where I am in the world.
Boil the milk and cream together, add the grated carrots, cloves, and cardamom seeds. Cook on low heat and keep stirring occasionally and keep an eye on the pan. Cook this until the milk/cream gets absorbed into the carrot (takes about 25-30 minutes on medium-low heat). Now add the sugar and keep stirring until it is all mixed in well. Add the coconut and ground pistachios. You can add natural red food coloring if you feel the carrots are too pale, but this is optional.
Continue to stir until the carrots being shiny, and the halva starts to leave the sides of the pan, and come together as a sticky ball. All the milk/cream and sugar should be combined very well at this point.
Pour into a serving dish, allow it to cool slightly, and decorate with all the garnishes. Serve either warm with ice cream or cold as it is. You can serve it in a big bowl or individual ones.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil; keep stirring and scraping dried milk from sides of pan and stir into the boiling milk.
Keep cooking on medium heat, until the milk reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes or ricotta. Allow it to cool in the pan. Transfer to into an airtight container, and refrigerate until needed. Use within a week.
Sumayya is a food writer and cookery teacher who grew up in Pakistan, but has now found home in Glasgow. Sumayya is passionate about sharing the flavours of her homeland with a view to highlight Pakistani cuisine as a distinct one. The author or two cookbooks: Summers Under The Tamarind Tree (Frances Lincoln) and Mountain Berries and Desert Spice (Frances Lincoln, out April 2017), her writing reminisces about food and memories growing up in Pakistan. She writes for many publications, appears on television, and co-presents BBC Kitchen Cafe weekly, on BBC Radio Scotland.