When you are kids it is no fun that your birthday falls during your school holidays. I do not recall ever taking the box of sweets to distribute to teachers and friends like other children did during my school years. In the later years our school tried to teach us to treat the birthday just as any other day. I must have chuckled and grinned widely then, possibly???
At home though the day of your birth star in the Hindu calender month of your birth was considered your birthday and this might fall on different days each year. The tradition at home is that you will have to take oil bath, wear new set of clothes and there will be one extra dish in the lunch menu viz, a payasam. You had to take blessings from elders and that is all about your birthday...you simply turned a year older.
Then while in college your friends demanded a treat and in return you got some small gift and a card. Even then for us, the new clothes tradition continued. And in all those years deepavali, pongal and the birthday were the only occasions that you were allowed to purchase new clothes and many times your choice might be vetoed for many reasons and you grudgingly wore what you were supposed to wear!
Now I buy clothes and sarees and wait for an occasion to wear them. So much has changed in life. However, I still hold dearly on to the tradition of the oil bath and the sweet.
Thus for my birthday earlier this month I made this carrot halwa and purely to add to the quantity, I added almonds along with the carrots. The halwa tasted rich and I decided I shall have to share it here. I had made gajar halwa using condensed milk sometime last year.. This time it was the recipe I adapted from the S. Meenakshi ammal cookbook with the only variation of adding badam to the carrots.
250 grams carrots, peeled and grated finely ( yield was approximately 2 cups)
100 grams almonds, soaked for a minute in hot water, skinned and pulsed in the mixer to a very coarse powder ( 100 ml /8 tablespoons powder)
375 grams/400 ml/1 and 2/3 cups sugar
120 ml/ 1/2 cup milk
120 gram/ 135 ml/ 9 tablespoons ghee
Few strands of saffron
1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
1/4 teaspoon powdered nutmeg
Few cashew nuts fried until golden in ghee.
Take the grated carrots and the coarse almond powder in a pan and pressure cook adding the milk until the carrots are soft. Set aside.
Add 1/4 cup of water to the sugar and allow to boil down to one string consistency syrup.
While the sugar is being boiled, soak the saffron in a few teaspoons milk and mix well.
When the sugar has reached the desired syrup stage, add gently the cooked carrot almond mixture to it and on a low fire stir continuously and cook.
The mixture will blend well and begin to thicken. Add ghee in small quantities while cooking and when the mixture has blended well, add the powdered spices and the saffron. cook for just a few minutes more and switch the heat off.
The halwa will be of drop consistency while still warm. It will thicken a bit once cooled. Hence switch off the heat when the mixture can be dropped in a thick flowing mass while held in a spoon above the cooking mass. Should you allow it to cook until very thick, you will have a crumbling hardened mass well past the fudge stage.
This halwa will be very rich thanks to the milk, almonds and the ghee. however, the quantity of ghee will be much lesser than the regular carrot halwa with the fat in the almonds contributing to the same.