A villager who had come to town as a guest of a townsman was given some halvah. He ate it with relish and then said: "Townsman, I had learned to eat nothing but carrots. Now that I have tasted halvah I have lost my taste for carrots. I won't be able to have halvah whenever I want, and what I had no longer appeals to me. What am I to do?" When the villager tasted halvah, he was inclined to the town. The townsman had captured his heart, and he had no choice but to follow in pursuit of it.
This rich dessert is popular throughout Northern India and Pakistan, where it is prepared for feasts on the 15th of Shaban and the 22nd of Rajab.
Total time: 3+ hours
4 cups peeled and finely grated carrots (about 1-½ lbs., or 10 medium)
4 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 cup honey or 1-½ cups brown sugar
1-¼ cup blanched, peeled and finely ground almonds
4 tbsp. sweet butter
½ tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. rosewater
⅓ cup raisins (optional)
⅓ cup blanched, peeled and slivered almonds (optional)
In a large saucepan combine carrots, milk and cream, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; stir constantly so the mixture does not stick or scorch. Reduce heat to medium-low and, stirring frequently, cook until it is thick enough to coat the spoon and is reduced in volume by about half. This will take 1-½ hours or more. Add the honey or brown sugar and raisins, if you wish, and continue cooking and stirring for another 10 minutes. Add ground almonds, butter and cardamom and continue cooking and stirring for at least 10 minutes more, until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. It should have the consistency of heavy pudding. Turn off the heat and stir in the rosewater.
Heap the mixture into a shallow serving bowl and garnish with slivered almonds. The flavor of halvah is fullest when it is served just slightly warm or at room temperature.
To prepare it as more of a candy, increase the end-stage cooking time so that the mixture becomes even denser; after the rosewater has been added, turn it out into a 7x11" pan lined with lightly buttered wax paper;
from Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook