Sweet carrot dessert with saffron and orange zest and my first guest post!

Have you read the book 'Namesake' by Jhumpa Lahiri? I am sure some of you have probably seen the movie. The movie is very well done but like with any other good books I feel the movie is no match to the book. In a nutshell the book traces the story of a second generation Indian-American son's (named Gogol Ganguli) coming of age years.

The movie is named namesake because Gogol is named after the memory of a rare near-death accident that occurred in his father's life before his father moved to America. Name 'Gogol' for his father resonates with a new beginning, the fact that he survived, the fact that he moved to US and made a new home for his family, a start of all good things! Gogol though is confused and awkward about his identity and heritage. He quite can not have the same feeling of 'home' towards India but at the same time feels a deep void and a disconnect with the western world surrounding him - even his name does not seem his own to him. 
He is a namesake for his parents lives and times. The book is about Gogol's journey trying to find where he fits, where his roots are and confronting the biggest questions about his identity. The book so delicately describes the subtleties of an immigrant life!

Anyway, where am I am going with the Namesake and carrot dish... see, I thought for a long time what to name this dish. When I made it I was craving carrot halwa but wanted something much more light, carroty and not creamy or buttery.. so hence came this dish. (Carrot halwa traditionally is prepared by cooking grated carrots in butter and whole milk until the mixture thickens, then some flavorings and sugar are added).

Instead of following the original recipe, I very lightly sauteed carrots in a non-fat milk and water. The sugar is just enough to bring out the carrot taste without being sweet while cardamom and nutmeg are the real behind the scenes stars of this dish. Orange zest adds this delicate citrusy undertones that show up once in a while right when you least expecting it and a good quality saffron for me just pulls the whole dish together! Overall, the dish was light, refreshing, flavorful and surely a guilt-free delight!

I was thinking of naming this dish healthy carrot halwa but I was worried of the inherent comparison I was inviting with the more ubiquitous creamy and rich carrot halwa dish.. see, you will love this dish if you eat it as is, but if you think of this is carrot halwa and eat it then you may surely miss the creaminess and the sugar... its almost like by naming this dish carrot halwa I would impart it with the missing of cream and butter instead of showcasing the stars which are sweet carrot flavors lightly spiced with nutmeg, cardamom and saffron... so, see namesake has its perils, right?

Anyway, enough of my senseless blabber.. lets get to the recipe!

Source: something I put together adapting traditional carrot halwa recipe
4 fresh medium-large carrots (3C packed shredded) -- fresher the carrots, the better!
3 pods cardamom - crushed coarsely with the back of a spoon
1/4C non-fat milk
1/2C water
pinch of saffron
pinch of nutmeg
1 cardamom pod - crushed
2Tbsp sugar
1tsp orange zest (or lemon zest)
few dried cranberries (or dried raisins)
1Tbsp toasted slivered almonds (or any nuts)
1tsp butter

  1. Shred carrots using a shredder. I got around 3C shredded carrots from my 4 carrots.
  2. Heat butter in a non-stick pan. When medium hot, add cardamom pods and fry for a minute.
  3. Add shredded carrots and fry for a few minutes on medium high.
  4. Add milk, water and sugar. With heat on medium high continue to cook until all the liquid disappers (10-15mins). Keep stirring regularly.
  5. When the liquid has almost disappeared add orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom and saffron and mix well.
  6. Remove from heat. Add dried cranberries (or raisins) and almonds and serve warm or cold!
Compared to the traditional carrot halwa recipe this one has very little ghee and little milk (non-fat). Then carrots are not thoroughly cooked like the halwa recipes.. instead they are lightly sauteed in their own juices for 10-15mins. Carrots still had a bit of their crunch left in the final dish.
I am sending this over to Joanne for this week's BSI - carrots.
My first guest-post
Deepa from the wonderful blog Foodlyrics had been gracious enough to give me a chance for my very first guest post at Foodlyrics. Thanks Deepa for this awesome opportunity. I thought for a long time about what to write and then settled finally on relating some of my food memories. This topic of how food invokes such strong memories in us and how people relate each other with food as a center-piece has always been near and dear to my heart and it sure was a lot of fun doing a guest post for Deepa. You can read all about it on her blog here.