In every Indian household, festivals are a special time. In my childhood, our home in the hills of Kohima was no exception. Those days there were no sweet shops around as they do now, and so, in the build up to the annual Durga Puja—the biggest Bengali festival of the year, we would wake up to the aroma of varying flavours as Ma and grandma would so painstakingly make, every afternoon, after the regular chores would get over.
While my brother’s fondness for sweets was well-known, I stayed away from anything sweet and enjoyed my savouries instead. Every summer, grandma would come to spend a few months with us, and whenever she came, our home was filled with the sweet essence and aroma of her beautiful cuisines. I was grandma’s favourite and she often preferred me over my little brother, which at times did bother me. I thought this was probably because she had nine sons and although she always longed for a daughter, her four granddaughters had fulfilled that wish for her. We girls were a privileged lot, and thoroughly pampered by grandma—something that always left the brothers jealous!
I recall a funny memory from a time when I must have been twelve or thirteen. It was late autumn, and grandma had just arrived only a few days before Durga Puja, all eager to treat us to the goodies that was customary during the season. Her culinary skills being exceptional, she prided herself on how she had mastered her art to perfection. There were many stories of how with her deft hand at cooking, she could get people to even eat things they didn’t often like. Over the next couple of days, our kitchen was getting ready for sweetmeats of every kind under the sun. Ma was pleased that her kitchen was well-stocked with such delectables which she was now happily going to serve her guests on day of the much-awaited Vijaya Dashami party at home.
The day before the D-day arrived, our home was ready to welcome everyone, with a splendid fare that would put our neighbours to shame. Not that it was intended that way, but the fact is none of the neighbours could compete with grandma’s prowess in the kitchen. After dinner was over, Ma decided to ensure that things were ready for the following day. When she came back from the kitchen, there was horror writ all over her face. She was vexed how most of the sweets were gone, leaving just a few to serve to a handful of people when, actually a houseful was going to turn up the next day! The home-help was summoned, who confessed he knew nothing about it but in his bid to save himself, he spilled the beans on little brother who he had seen carrying a big bag in the evening when he was going out to play, with his friends waiting by the side of the fence. It was apparent, who the real suspect was, but since it was way too late, and the suspect was fast asleep, we all had to wait the next morning, when brother was rounded up.
It was quite a sight to see my little brother’s smile gradually disappear behind dark cumulonimbus clouds, before he burst into tears, finally confessing to his crime. He narrated how he stole out some sweets for himself and his friends and how they had cajoled him to get more since they loved it so much, and how, he had no choice but to come back for more—which is when our home help had seen him. Ma was angry but Grandma was livid with rage, as you can well imagine! But, I being the protective elder sister, had to do something about it. So, promptly, I decided to shield him by shifting part of the blame on myself. I told Ma I had helped brother and that I should also be held responsible for it. I uttered these words, totally leveraging on the fact that grandma would go lenient with me, which she did, much to the relief of a little fellow who looked up in obligation at how I had saved him. Things we do for our siblings!!
As the years go, these are the memories that tug at the heart, of people you loved and people who loved you unconditionally. Memories are precious, aren’t they? I love them. I bask in their bliss and warmth and retell them to my son, for him to look back fondly and share with his family someday, years later.
Of all the things that Grandma used to make, the first that comes to mind is my perennial favourite gajar-ka-halwa which has remained a constant even till this day. Today, I’m sharing her recipe with you. It is very simple dish that is easy to prepare and perfect to serve during the winter season when the red carrots are in plenty.
GAJAR KA HALWA – Recipe
I prefer the red carrots, you find most commonly in North India. In Bangalore, though, we get them only during these winter months. In case you cannot get the red ones, let me assure you, even the Orange variety will do. Eventually, the most important ingredient you can add to any recipe is love, so, there you go. 🙂
- Carrots: 1Kg
- Milk: 1 litre
- Ghee 4 tablespoons
- Cashews 30 grams
- Raisins 30 grams
- Cardamom 10 – 14 (peeled and ground)
- Pistachios to garnish
- Peel and grate the carrots first.
- Then, simmer in milk in a pan with the cardamom powder sprinkled on it, until all the liquid evaporates and the milk thickens.
- Now, heat ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the carrot mixture. Mix well and keep stirring over a gentle heat for 10 mins. Cover the lid occasionally and let the carrot soften.
- Add milk and sugar and continue stirring on gentle heat until the carrot turns deep red in colour.
- Add cashews and raisins and take it off the stove.
- Garnish with Pistachio and your gajar-ka-halwa is ready to serve, either hot or cold, as you prefer.
In case you’re interested, they have a linky party on the first Tuesday of every month where they invite bloggers to bring along food memories, stories, food photos or even restaurant reviews. All you got to do is:
- Write a blog post and hashtag it #FlavoursomeTuesdays
- Drop your links in the comments on their respective blogs.
- Share the love on social media.
- Sit back and enjoy the party.