Tuesday 18 May 2010

Smart as a carrot

Carrot Halwa seved with Ice Cream

My dad is the sweetest man, kind to his bones, but like lots of northern men of his generation, he can be a little short on the compliments (‘Don’t be daft.’) So it’s rather marvellous when your appearance garners his greatest accolade ‘smart as a carrot’. I’ve no idea where this phrase comes from, though I’ve never heard it outside of my native north east. What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that you don’t want to be its antithesis: ‘a bag of tripe’. When I was a kid, my dad’s Saturday afternoon treat while he listened to the football results was a bowl of tripe with vinegar. I used to think it looked like a crumpled heap of greying laundry. This isn’t usually what I’m aiming for when I leave the house.

Today’s smart as a carrot dish comes from Karuna, who works with Séan. When I’m testing recipes, a church fête’s worth of cakes, biscuits and tarts can come out of the Lickedspoon kitchen. It would be impossible for us to eat them all, so I take some of them to the park and the rest Séan takes with him to the office. They are a very good tasting panel. I get notes: too sweet, not sweet enough, too many nuts, or too few, love the coconut, hate it. I’m grateful for the feedback, but I’m thrilled to get my hands on this recipe. Several of you commented on the White Chocolate Cake saying you love cardamom, so I hope this appeals to you too.

Next week, tripe… Maybe.

Recipe all written out Karuna’s recipe, such neat writing, such a messy fridge.

Carrot Halwa

Served with gold-leaf!

I didn’t have jaggery (and, shamefully, couldn’t peel myself out of the kitchen, walk around the corner and buy some) so I used molasses sugar. It meant my halwa ended up quite dark. I also got a bit distracted and let it simmer a little too long, so it was very thick and intensely fudgy. No matter, I just sprinkled on a little gold leaf and it was delicious with the ice cream. But, note to self, next time jaggery and pay attention.

Serves 6-8

450g carrots, peeled and sliced
280ml semi skimmed or whole milk
280ml double cream
4tbsp shelled, unsalted pistachios
225g jaggery, raw sugar or molasses sugar
55g granulated sugar
10-15 cardamom seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
200g ground almonds
4 tbsp ghee or clarified butter
4 tbsp almond pins

The ingredients

Put the carrots, milk and cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and stir well. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to half the volume and has become thick and heavy.

Carrots away Carrots boiled in cream.

Molasses in Adding the molasses sugar.

While the carrots are cooking, roast the pistachios in the oven at 180˚C/350˚F/Gas mark 4 until just fragrant, about 8 minutes.

Put both sugars into the carrot mixture, stir to dissolve and simmer for 10 minutes.

With a small, sharp knife, halve the cardamom pods and remove the seeds. Discard the shells. Grind the cardamom and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar, or in a bowl with the end of a rolling pin, until fine.

Reduce the heat under the carrot mixture and add the ground almonds and ghee or clarified butter. Stir for about 10 minutes until the halva starts to pull together into a solid mixture. Stir in the ground cardamom and fennel.

Serve in dishes at room temperature, or straight from the hob, with cream, ice cream or kulfi. Garnish with the toasted pistachios and almond pins.


  1. e bravissima! i adore gajar ka halwa- and your friend's recipe is brill. and you are even more brill for making this- absolutely perfect. i'd love a spoon (or two) of that right now! x shayma

  2. Your sainted father loved this one. (I read it to him...) Another of his sayings is 'neat as an egg'. The analagy works - the egg is the perfect example of form and function, isn't it?
    Your pictures tell a story as always and the gajar ka halwa looks delicious.

  3. oh hellsbells, that sounds marvellous. Send by fast horse to the west country immediately

  4. ;-) What a way to get your carrots!
    Smart as a carrot - great story!

  5. Shayma, Thanks so much dear. I wish I could send you a pretty little bowl of it, but I fear it wouldn't travel well.
    Mum, Neat as an egg! How could I have forgotten that one. Must do a whole post dedicated to dad's quirky food analogies.
    MarkyD - If I knew how to spot a fast horse, I would back it rather than trouble it with halwa courier responsibillities.
    MyKitchen and Joy, Thank you.

  6. I'm still puzzling the carrot question. Personally, I find it hard to be smart with green ferny foliage appearing from my head and the tendency to fork into strange shapes.

    Aubergines. I think that's the answer. Jolly smart and very glossy. Terribly fashionable colour too.

  7. Dawn, Quite agree. Would love to know where it comes from. Neat as an egg, bag of tripe I get, but carrots? Aubergines, now there's a glossy, well-groomed veg. Dx

  8. What a fab blog. An inspiration to a fellow food blogger! This recipe looks to die for! Too delicious. And, Mark D, my Dad's favourite saying is 'Hellsbells'. Sorry... xxx

  9. Neat as an egg" Smart as a carrot." I don't think the "smart" here is intelligence, it's a certain sartorial flair...and the winsome carrot, pointed to a fare-thee-well and feathered with green whispies, well, it's practically the dandy of the vegetable world, now, isn't it?
    Sassy as a kiwi, Karen

  10. Okay, I LOVE "neat as an egg" and "smart as a carrot", I believe, doesn't refer to intelligence, but to sartorial excellence! The carrot, sharply pointed, neated topped with a frondy display of green (a vivid contrast to the dayglow orange), the tapering shape that pleases the eye...you see? He's the dandy of the veggie world!

    Quick as a kiwi,
    Karen Marline

  11. Rose Cottage, Thank you so much for visiting, and for your lovely comments.
    Karen, You believe and we do to. In English English, 'smart' almost always means well-dressed, though sometimes it means cocky, as in 'don't get smart with me'. We hardly ever use it, as you do, to mean clever. Here endeth, and all that...

    love, Dx

  12. You were lucky. My parents hail from the East End, our Saturday treat after going to Covent Garden Market was jellied eels. I can eat most things but that. My Dad nicknamed my son 'Pudding' as in 'he would laugh to see a pudding roll'. I think these regional quirks are wonderful. Fab cake xx

  13. I love he quirky dialogue on this blog

  14. that is THE quirky dialogue...

  15. Belgravia Wife, My, you've come a long way baby... Like you, I think of myself as an adventurous sort but I've yet to learn to love the jellied eel. I do LOVE 'he would laugh to see a pudding roll' though. I am going to try and work it into a conversation today. I may be certified by this evening and I will blame you.
    Mum, It's great isn't it? So excited by my wonderfully imaginative visitors.

  16. Oh wonderful stuff - sounds fantastic, although I did get slightly confused at first and thought you were making carrot ice-cream which I was looking forward to hearing about. What are almond pins?

  17. Sorry for the cyber-stutter, darling. No idea why my message appears to be eaten by the borg, prompting me to be brilliant TWICE on the same subject, then whoosh. It appears that I'm doppleganging up on myself!
    Love, Karen Karen

  18. ooh nice one, i have a family recipe that's been passed down through decades, will post on my blog soon and share! S x


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