Indian carrot halvah has little in common with the Middle Eastern sesame paste dessert. It's a thick pudding of milk, nuts, and carrots, loaded with butter and spices. It's not for the faint of heart: it's sticky-sweet and plenty rich, but really delicious. We've been looking for a way to play with something like this, so when a cousin suggested an ice cream with carrots and ginger, we found our excuse.
Carrots may sound like an odd dessert ingredient, but they're certainly not just health food. They're starchy and sweet, and when cooked down slowly with milk, practically become candy on their own. Consider them an alternative sweetener, like honey, but with an even more complex sweetness. In a dessert, carrots can build a mild but flavorful base for more intense ingredients to play.
Our result is something of a hybrid between Indian and Middle Eastern halvah. We removed some of halvah's near-gratuitous fat because it can dull flavors on the tongue: the custard here is lighter on egg yolks. Instead, the velvet richness comes from carrot and ginger puréed right into the base, along with some tahini. The sesame paste gives the ice cream a decidedly Middle Eastern inflection, a rounded nuttiness that we hope will absolve us of any culinary fusion sins. A sprinkling of toasted pistachios pays homage to both halvah traditions, and adds welcome textual contrast.
Feel free to experiment with your spices in this ice cream. We went with ginger, spicy cinnamon, and a hint of cardamom. But orange blossom water, rose petals, or coriander (carrots love it) would all be fitting. Serve it with chai and cookies for afternoon tea, and scoop with abandon. After all, it's got veggies in it.
Ethan Frisch is the chef and co-mastermind behind Guerrilla Ice Cream, the only ice cream company that looks to international political movements for inspiration and donates all of its profits. He's traveled around the world (30 countries, 5 continents) and worked as a pastry chef and line cook in some of NYC's great (and not so great) restaurants. He lives above a tofu factory in Manhattan's Chinatown.
Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries.
- Yield:8 to 10 (makes about 1 quart)
- Active time: 1 hour
- Total time:1 1/2 hours (plus overnight chilling)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup firmly packed shredded carrots, about 5 medium
- 3 tablespoons ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
- 1 teaspoon spicy cinnamon (often labelled as "Vietnamese" or "Saigon")
- 4 cardamom pods
- 2 cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup turbinado sugar (or 1/2 cup packed brown sugar)
- 3/4 cup toasted and roughly chopped pistachios
In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, carrots, ginger, tahini, and spices over medium heat. Heat on a bare simmer, stirring now and then, for 15 to 20 minutes, until carrots and ginger have softened. Add salt in small pinches to taste. Remove the cloves and cardamom.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar till thoroughly combined and lighter in color. While whisking, add two to three ladles of cream mixture into the bowl until the bottom feels warm. Then return the egg mixture to the pot and stir on medium heat till you can swipe a clean line through the base on the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the base to a blender and purée until smooth, about 2 minutes (remove small cap on the lid of the blender and cover the hole with a kitchen towel to prevent explosions). Pour the base into a bowl and chill overnight.
Churn according to your machine's instructions. In the last minute of churning, add the pistachios. Serve immediately for soft serve, or chill another two hours for firmer ice cream.