Gajar Halwa, a carrot, milk & cardamom based dessert, is probably one of India’s most popular contributions to the food world. For those unfamiliar with this culinary masterpiece, it is basically grated carrots slow cooked over a medium heat along with milk and sugar and seasoned with powdered cardamom. I was keen to reinvent this one for Keya. But of course I did not want to be feeding my 10 month old refined sugar, so I started to consider alternative sweeteners.
Naturally Honey came to mind. But as it’s unsafe to feed infants below 12 months any honey due to the risk of botulism, that was struck off my list of options. My recent experiment with baking baby friendly cupcakes, reminded of the wonderfully sweet apricot. I am in the process of developing a refined flour and sugar-free recipe for cupcakes/ birthday cake for Keya’s first birthday. It breaks my heart that babies can never enjoy more than a few crumbs of their own birthday cake. Commercial stuff is laced with preservatives, artificial colouring, extra sugar…. yikes! why on earth would we feed a baby that, right? But I’ll save that for a special post once I am 100% satisfied with the results of that project.
Back to the apricot for now. Dried apricots are readily available in most grocery stores these days. I suggest selecting the organic variety as those are dried naturally without preservatives and are sulphur free, resulting in darker skin and tougher flesh. Not only are these deliciously sweet, but dried apricots are powerhouses of nutrients like Vitamin A & C, Iron and Potassium. Additionally, like carrots, they are rich in Beta Carotene and Lycopene which make them excellent for the health of your baby’s heart.
The main ingredient, carrots, of course, besides being delicious as we know are excellent for healthy eyes and skin. I used full fat cow’s milk when I made this for Keya, but if you’d like to make this for a younger baby (6 to 8 mos), you can cook the halwa in water (yes, water!) and once its finished, add 5-6 spoons of the infant formula powder that your baby normally drinks.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT ‘cook’ the halwa in formula milk, as the high temperatures used during cooking destroy its nutritive value. Add the powder after it is done instead. Also, I added a little ground almonds to Keya’s halwa (she is 10 mos old), but this is an optional ingredient and should be left out for babies under 12 mos if your family has a history of nut allergies.
Overall nutrition report: Great source of Vitamins A & C, Iron, Calcium, beta- Carotene, Lycopene and Potassium.
- 1 heaped cup, grated raw carrots (as coarse or fine as your baby will accept)
- 6 to 7 dried apricots (add a couple more if you want this sweeter)
- 3/4 cup full fat milk ( or 1 cup water)
- 1/4 cup full fat milk, slightly warmed, for soaking the apricots
- 1 tbsp ground almonds (optional)
- 1 small pinch of green cardamom powder OR cinnamon powder
- 1 tiny pinch of saffron, crushed using fingers
- 1-1/2 tsp ghee OR a small dab of unsalted butter
1. Before you begin cooking the halwa, soak the dried apricots in 1/4 cup of warmed milk (or water) for about 30-45 mins. Puree till nice and smooth.
2. Begin cooking by, heating the ghee or unsalted butter in a non stick pan till it melts. Add the grated carrots. Cook the carrots over a medium heat till they begin to change their colour a little bit. Add the apricot-milk puree and the additional 3/4 cup of milk and stir well to mix. Cover and cook till the carrots soften and the mixture reduces to a slightly firmer consistency. Add a few tablespoons of milk/ water if you feel that your baby will not accept something too “dry”.
3. When almost cooked, add the ground almonds and the cardamom powder. Cook for another few minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the halwa to cool a bit. Add the crushed saffron and mix. It is at this stage, that you add the infant formula powder should you choose to.
This version of Gajar Halwa is so delicious and such a healthy alternative to the high refined sugar stuff that we normally make! You can make a separate batch for mum using low fat milk, and enjoy a treat even if you are on a post- baby diet (like me!) :)