Carrot Pudding.

It’s All About Your POV

One of my favorite things about cooking is when I get a “wild idea” to try something that I’ve never heard of before. It makes me feel like an alchemist magician or a genius chef worthy of my own legion of TikTok followers. There’s also something about the experience that takes me back to childhood and the ability to get lost in the realm of unfettered imagination. Making up recipes uplifts me. It’s transformative. It’s Willy Wonka meets Julia Child. It makes the sun shine on a cloudy day.

When I get these spontaneous ideas I try to resist using Google until after the experiment is over. Later, when I do some actual research, my harebrained schemes typically prove to be longstanding traditions in another part of the world. Case in point: carrot pudding.

This particular adventure began with some leftover cream of carrot soup that I made for Thanksgiving. I was inspired to turn it into a sweet pudding after tasting a bite straight from the fridge. With a generous spoonful of honey and some chopped pecans on top, it becomes a truly ambrosia-like sweet that is downright healthy!

After a quick search, it turned out that there are many carrot pudding recipes out there. The one that really appeals to me, and that is somewhat similar to the way I made my carrot pudding, is a North Indian sweet treat called Gajar Ka Halwa. I’m so excited to discover this recipe because I think it will be even more delicious than what I made. I can’t wait to buy more carrots.

In the meantime, there are some intriguing aspects to my own tangential culinary approach, so I’m going to share a couple of observations. Since my pudding began as a cream of carrot soup, my initial steps were to roast two cooking sheets full of carrots and combine them in a blender with a cup full of caramelized yellow onions. I blended these together with some beef broth, salt, cream, garlic powder, and cumin to taste. My onions had a bit of unintentional char, but that added a nice smoky note to the soup.

I really, really love caramelized onions and try to have a container full of them in my refrigerator at all times. They can be time intensive to prepare and require some patience, so I find that cooking them ahead in big batches is the way to go. I know that my carrot pudding would have tasted quite a bit different had the onions not been present, and I’m willing to venture that after further experiments, I may decide that onions are a necessary ingredient. It’s a bit like the effect of sea salt on caramel ice cream. You know?

Part 2. Carrot Pudding, Indian Style

Well, so much for speculation! I made the OG carrot pudding Gajar Ka Halwa, mentioned above. It is terrific and highly superior to my crazy concoction. (Certainly, no onions are required or desired, although it might be worth a third experiment.)

Like Butter.

I’m frustrated that my efforts to eat a proper lunch every day, and to write about this simple pleasure, have gone off the rails . I mean, what could be more basic than heating up some leftovers around midday, sitting down in a civilized fashion to enjoy the meal, and writing a few quick words?

Well, in the modern-day work paradigm, it’s the basic civilities that seem to go by the wayside. I vaguely recall an era (five years ago?) when it was generally understood that work meetings during the Noon-1 pm zone were to be avoided. The lunch hour was sacred. It was not only a time to nourish oneself, but to stretch one’s legs—and to step outside the office for a glimpse of the sky and the greater world at large.

Today, in the working remotely Zoom era, lunchtime meetings are unapologetically scheduled on the regular. Maybe the widespread belief is that you can always just turn off your video and mute yourself while cramming food in your mouth? The excuse (which is no longer even offered) is that it is “the only time when everyone is available.” No duh! Why? Because it’s lunch time. Sigh.

No matter how exasperating, I see little hope of dissuading this terrible new trend. The only “solution” is accepting the situation and shifting one’s lunch time accordingly. Sometimes lunch might have to be at 10:30. Other days at 4 pm. Just go with it workers! Do you feel me? You’re lucky to be employed. Be grateful.

Oh, and another thing: your window to eat lunch might only be five or ten minutes, so you’ll need to have a lot of things that reheat quickly, or maybe don’t need any heat at all. And maybe broaden your definition of what constitutes lunch entirely. For example, have you considered cookies? Cookies, in certain situations, can be almost as good (or better) than a power bar. Case in point: the oatmeal cookie!

Aside from being absolutely delicious, the oatmeal cookie may offer a heavy dose of emotional comfort. That is certainly true for me. No cookie (or food, really) more vividly recalls my grandmother Margaret’s limitless love and affection than an oatmeal cookie. She adored oatmeal cookies and made sure that there was always a ready supply.

So, if I’m ever feeling blue, or just craving a treat, it’s no surprise that making some oatmeal cookies is one of the first things that comes to mind. Just the scent of cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar filling my kitchen as I make the dough brings her presence to life. I can still conjure the feeling of my cheek snuggling against her soft cotton dresses when I was a little girl. The best all-encompassing feeling of pure love in all of this world!

I’m not entirely sure what recipe my grandmother used, or if she even used a recipe—some members of my family swear it came from the back of the iconic Quaker Oatmeal box. That sounds right to me. I can easily picture her starting with that and modifying it as she saw fit, meaning extra raisins and nuts, and maybe a heavy hand with the brown sugar, too.

Given that there’s not a signature oatmeal cookie recipe in my family history, I feel no guilt in saying that I have found a recipe (or maybe just a methodology) that is even better than my grandmother’s. If you really, truly want to make the world’s most heavenly cookies then you need look no further than Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies. Seriously people!

This is the cookie book that will change your cookie-making game. What’s Medrich’s big secret? Melted butter! Almost every one of her recipes advises melting your butter before adding it to the dry ingredients. And having made nearly every recipe in her book more than once, I can testify to their deliciousness.

Melting the butter versus creaming room-temperature butter into dry ingredients yields thin cookies with a chewy center and crunchy edges. In my view, that’s cookie perfection.

However, the perfection of Alice Medrich’s cookies in no way undermines my grandmother’s most powerful ingredient: her unconditional love. The memory of making cookies in her warm, cozy kitchen fills me with joy.

Her love is inextricably linked with oatmeal cookies whether I’m using her recipe or not. And it’s why oatmeal cookies are the ultimate comfort food for me during these sometimes lonely, sad and exhausting times of remote overworking from home during the Age of Covid.

So if you have a cookie craving, or like me, you’re short on time for a proper lunch, or just feeling a bit down, order a copy of Medrich’s book and give her oatmeal cookie recipe a try. Having a batch (or two) at the ready is the ultimate defense.