Crazy for carrots – ingenious Indian carrot dishes

Let’s spare a moment for the humble carrot. So often treated as an unloved side-show to a meat dish in the UK, in Indian cuisine carrots are elevated to their rightful place as a delicious, versatile and highly nutritious vegetable. 

Carrot masala vada
These spicy, tempting patties are crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and contrast the natural sweetness of carrot with the sharpness of green chillies, coriander, mint leaves and cumin. Grated carrot is mixed with spices, chickpeas and onions then formed into little cakes and deep fried until golden. As a snack or with rice and a vegetable dish side, they are absolute heaven.

Carrot rice
Fried onions, chillies and spices make up the basis of this delicious rice-based dish. Cooked basmati rice and thick-grated carrot are added to a mix of cardamom, mustard seeds, cloves and curry leaves, making a delightful contrast between the soft rice grains and the rough carrot shreds. 

Gajar ka doodh
Never mind milkshakes and iced coffee, this delicious carrot-based drink is the best cool treat in town. Steamed carrots are blended with milk, cinnamon, cloves, cashew nuts, sugar and a generous helping of sweet, creamy condensed milk then put on ice to chill. Sweet, refreshing and a glamorous shade of orange: make mine a double!

Carrot methi pachadi
This soft, delicately spiced dish is a perfect comfort food. Garlic, cumin, lentils, chillies and mustard seeds are roasted in oil, then grated carrot is added with raw sugar and a little salt. The dish is simmered until the lentils and carrots break down into a moreish, lip-smacking mush. 

Carrot poriyal
This colourful dish is like a kind of carroty bubble and squeak – you can add other vegetables to the pot if you wish. To begin, mustard seeds, urad dal, curry leaves and red chillies are heated in oil, then onion and green chillies are added. Grated carrot and other vegetables such as beans and potato are put into the pot, before being simmered until it reaches a lovely crumbly texture. The dish is served with a little fresh coconut sprinkled over the top. 

Carrot chutney
You’ve tried mango chutney and lime pickle – now it’s time to give their carroty cousin a go. To make the carrot chutney, roughly chopped carrots are thrown in a pan with chickpeas, red chillies, onions, garlic, tomato and ginger plus a little oil. When the mix is well cooked and combined, the chutney is blended then cooled, with the addition of a few tamarind pods to increase the sour flavour. To complete the appetising condiment, oil infused with mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves is poured over before serving.

Gajar kahalwa
This famous dessert makes the most of carrot’s natural sweet flavour, but adds a little extra sugar just in case. Grated carrots are boiled up with condensed milk, plain milk, cardamom and cloves until it forms a sticky, translucent fudge. Served hot or cold with a garnish of toasted cashew nuts or almonds, gajar ka halwa is an indulgent classic.
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