It is an established fact that carrot halwa is the quintessential winter dessert in North India at least. Usually everyone makes the red carrot halwa, loaded with the goodness of juicy winter carrots, ghee (a good fat), and dry fruits but I absolutely love the black carrot halwa since my childhood. More than the red and the exotic white one which is sold only at Shirin Bhawan, Chandini Chawk, Old Delhi. In Allahabad, Lucknow and nearby areas it was made in many households on regular basis and was one of the top picks for the winter wedding season. It was also part of the Royal Awadhi cuisine.
In Delhi, the safed gajar ka halwa ruled until the red one came and dominated the market after the partition.
Even though it a specialty of Eastern UP, very few shops make and sell it. Kali gajar is not really black but of deep violet hue like the beetroot and is used in Punjab for the preparation of the delicious kanji, a mustard, ginger powder and rock salt-laced tingling appetizer. Interestingly this deep purple variety of carrot is the original carrot.
This traditional gajar halwa is one of the top ones in the lost recipes / delicacies of Indian cuisines. The richness of ghee helps in absorption of fat soluble vitamins in the pigments. Black carrot is rich in flavonoids and Antioxidant anthocyanins among other things. They are considered to be warming in nature and extremely healthy so the halwa was eaten as a tonic to boost the immunity. The halwa is less sweet than the red carrot and has a unique taste and flavor that you need to cultivate and once you do it will become one of your top choices.
For years I made this delicious exactly as I made the red carrot halwa and thought that the astringent taste was part of the package but then as few years back I came across Sangeeta Khanna’s recipe on her blog. I was surprised to know the reason for the strange taste and how the black carrots mask the sweetness of the milk unlike the sweet red ones when cooked in full fat milk. So I learned how to get rid of the problem. It was a game changer for the dish I so love. So, the recipe I am sharing is originally hers and you can find it HERE too.
The Kali Gajar Halwa is rich in ghee ( clarified butter) which is essential for the absorption of fat soluble nutrients of the pigment. So, do make this mouth watering dish before the season for black carrots is over.
1 kg cleaned peeled and grated black carrots
1 Liter full fat milk reduced to make about 200 gm rabdi like thick consistency)
200 gm sugar
60 gm (2-3 tbsp) ghee or a little more
chopped nuts, raisins for garnish (I usually prefer it without any add-ons)
Wash, wipe, peel and grate the carrots and keep aside. I usually use a plastic bag over my hands while grating as the pigment is hard to wash off. Be careful of it staining your clothes etc.
( Side note -My aunt used to say one should always use straight carrots and not the deformed twisted ones. I asked her the reason and she gave some popular story about the root resembling the phallic shape and considered aphrodisiac.) 😀
Take the full fat whole milk in a thick bottom pan and bring it to boil. Now, reduce heat and let it evaporate and thicken while you prepare the carrots. Keep stirring now and then. I absolutely detest khoya or mawa so never use it. It also changes the original subtle taste which is a complete no no. No shortcuts to good food.
Heat a broad thick bottom pan or wok on medium flame and generously smear it with ghee. The wok must be large enough to comfortably contain all the grated carrot.
Slid in the grated carrots and stir vigorously for five minutes or till the carrots wilt and reduce. Now, tun the flame to medium and keep stirring. The beautiful flavors will get locked in as the carrots get a little seared. They will get a glorious sheen when this happens.
Once the grated carrot reduces in volume and becomes shiny soft you can mash it a little to get a smooth texture or leave it as it is for that authentic granular texture. I don’t mash the carrots as it is the shredded texture that gives the dish its character.
Add the sugar and mix well. Keep stirring and cooking till all the water released from adding the sugar evaporates. The mixture will become glazed and shine.
By now the milk would have reduced to the required consistency. Stir and scrape all the thick malai from the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and remove it from stove. Add the thick evaporated milk to the carrot mixture and mix well. The milk will take on the gorgeous purple hue of the carrots and the kitchen will become fragrant with the aroma and the halwa won’t get the .astringent taste either.
Cook till all the ingredients come together in a mass. The mixture will usually leave the sides. Roast it a little more and remove from heat.
Garnish with chopped blanched almonds, raisins etc if you desire. The halwa is best served hot.
I can assure you that you will definitely go for another helping. Do let me know if you prepare this.
Wandering around Delhi you may come across many pieces of history now forgotten and lost to time. One such lesser visited monument is the Tomb of Sufi saint Sheikh Kabiruddin Auliya known as Lal Gumbad. Oblivious to the hustle bustle around it the elegant building stands in a gated walled complex in utter neglect. Though it is in comparatively good state the other structures that lay scattered in the ground around it are a repository of decay.
Sheikh Kabiruddin Auliya is believed to belong to the Chishti Silsila. The Sufi saints were known for their piety and simplicity and never had such grand tombs of marble and sandstone built over their graves. Mostly they were modest enclosures, usually open from the sides. It is believed that Kabiruddin was a disciple of Sufi saint Roshan Chirag Delhi, who was the spiritual successor of the world-renowned Nizamuddin Auliya.
Most of the saints of Chisti order were buried in open grounds and later chatris wee built over the graves. Many other graves, wall mosques would come up around the saint’s grave over a period of time. This particular tomb is not just grand as a structure it has ornate walls, pierced jaali screens, and, according to the local lore, gold filial atop the dome which is thought have been stolen centuries ago. And yet, the plaque inside the tomb ascribes it to the saint. There are many theories about the structure and one such says that it was built by Firoz Tughlaq for himself but later given for the Sufi saint’s burial.
Situated in Sadhna Enclave, Malviya Nagar, this sandstone structure of Tughlaq period is known as Lal Gumbad though it doesn’t have a red dome. How it acquired the name is a mystery. It does have sloping red sandstone walls. The somewhat pointed and not so round dome used to be white but has blackened over the period of time.
If you look at the structure it resembles a mini fort rather than a saint’s Dargah. In appearance it reminds one of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s tomb, albeit this tall square structure is a poor replica of it. Built in 1397, it is a typical example of Tughlaq architecture. The structure stands on a raised plinth and has sturdy sloping walls covered with strips of dressed red sandstone that turn slightly inwards as they go up. The Tughlaq tombs had walls with thick base making it easy for the single dome to sit properly atop the squat building. The plastered conical dome springing from the low octagonal drum of this tomb is strikingly different than other Tughlaq era tombs.
On the North and South side walls one can see mihrabs with ornate sandstone jaalis. The west wall exterior is plain from outside but has a deeply recessed arch inside. One can see lotus bud motifs in marble on the arches that have false decorative pillars below them. The Eastern archway is elaborately carved and as one enters the damp, dark funerary chamber one comes across nine graves. The grave of a male in the center is a somber one. One can see a lot of lotus bud ornamentation in marble inside, very typical of Khilji period in my opinion, though I am not an expert. The great wooden door is kept locked mostly to prevent worshiping I guess.
The tomb is also known as Rakabala gumbad due to the story that rakhabs were fixed on the western slopping wall to steal the gold finial.
The exquisite domed gateway is now gone and so have the enclosure walls. The whole place, except the main tomb, looks more ruinous than what it was even say 10 months back. Not that the tomb of Hazrat Shaikh Kabir-ud-din Aulia is in perfect condition. The massive wooden door is charred from below due to the burning of incense sticks, earthen lamps etc. Overgrowth has taken over many of the dilapidated structures there. Encroachments and sheer neglect has caused the eastern gateway to become dilapidated. Its floor has eroded and is in dire need of repair.
The other domed structure in the complex is filthy and smells disgusting. I think it also acts as a store. I couldn’t approach the wall next to it as there was garbage of all sorts, broken glass and an overgrowth of low thorny bushes. Why aren’t the concerned authorities maintaining this place? Going by the photographs of last 5-6 years things have just deteriorated. The way things are going we will lose most of the lesser known monuments due to sheer neglect and apathy. I think all these gated monuments should be ticketed. It will definitely improve the situation.
There are several scattered graves and remains of at least five wall mosques in the enclosed area around the tomb. All of these belong to Lodi period. The most prominent one is located to the west of Lal Gumbad. Here, there are recessed arches on the western prayer wall and two short walls returning on the North and South too contain arches. One can see some fading incised plasterwork depicting floral motifs as well as geometrical shapes on the main qanati (wall) masjid.
There is a platform in front of the wall with a single grave. The corners of the western wall are strengthened by circular bastions. Two other mosques have three mihrabs and a third one has a single mihrab.
Everything is surrounded by weeds and grass. It is remarkable how these structures have withstood the ravages of time. Nothing much is known about who is buried in these graves. Perhaps people who were close to the saint.
Many locals were lounging around the grassy patches that cover some of the space in the complex. No tourists were there and according to the local boys hardly any visit the place as it is infested with bad elements mainly gamblers and addicts. I could feel the piercing gaze of young men who were killing time there.
The 620-year-old tomb, one of the finest pre-mughal structures and the ruins around it are dying a slow death. There is a dire need to preserve Delhi’s built heritage.
As I walked around the unkempt but manicured grounds that once formed the fourth city of Delhi- Jahanpanah, founded by Muhammad Bin Tuglaq, I thought about the times we live in and the ruinous state of affairs that have marred the social fabric of our country once known to be secular and tolerant. In retrospective these abandoned ruins seemed calming to the senses.
Unfortunately I missed out photographing some important aspects of the place. I will update the post when I click a few more pictures.
Meanwhile do take time out and visit these exquisite yet unknown remnants of our cultural and architectural heritage.