Gajar ka Murabba (Indian Sweet Carrot Preserve): Strange, but Delicious!
Murabba is probably the ugliest name one could have given to their dish. The mere sound of it makes me cringe or want to make fun of things. Despite the hideousness of the name, and the weird concept of carrot jam/preserve, though, it's probably one of my favourite childhood snacks. I can't quite remember what time of the year my mum used to make this, but I do remember the jars of carrot, apple and gooseberry preserves she would cook and place on shelves to marinade while I looked wide-eyed at them hoping they would be ready to eat soon!
The name Murabba is Arabic in its origins, though the snack (or jam, or desert, depending on where it's consumed) is popular throughout northern South Asia and the Persian Gulf. Naturally, there are many varieties of the dish that use different fruits, rose water and other flavourings, but the Indian one seems to be the most basic, using only carrots, sugar, and water. I tried to tszuj it up a little with a tiny splash of rose water and some cardamom: the cardamom added some amazingness to it, but the rose water, not so much. I'll still try making a Persian version that uses a lot of rose water at some point, though.
I should also add that this version was made in a bit of a hurry. To make it properly, you're supposed to let the carrots marinade in sugar overnight, and cook them the following morning in the juices that come out while marinading. As I don't cook on the weekdays usually, I had to adapt to a one-day version by doing what's in the directions below. The result wasn't great at first, I thought, but after letting it rest for a day, it tastes great! No wonder my mum kept it on the shelf for a few days before letting me touch them. And surely, a couple more days later, it became absolutely perfect, albeit a little less sweet than what I remember because I just chose not to use as much sugar for health's sake. It's pretty too!
1 kg carrots, cut into thick matchsticks
2 cups sugar
5 cardamom pods, crushed (optional)
1 tbs vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp rose water (optional)
- Boil water with vinegar and salt over medium-high heat.
- Add carrots and blanch for 5 minutes under they're slightly soft and cooked. Drain water and reserve. I recommend reserving some of the water for making the syrup in the next step too, but I forgot to do it this time.
- In the same pot, add 2 cups of water and sugar, and heat heat until all the sugar dissolves.
- Add carrots back into the pot along with the cardamom and rosewater if desired. Reduce heat to medium and cook for approximately 40 minutes until the syrup takes a one-string consistency, i.e. if you dip and pull a spoon out, a thick, unbroken, string of syrup drips into the pot, like diluted honey.
- Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. If you notice the sugar crystallizing, you've evaporated too much water, so just add in a bit of boiling water to compensate for the loss. Mix together to dissolve the sugar, and let it rest.
- Once it's cool, place it in a jar and let it marinade and preserve for a couple of days.
Let me know what you think!