by Ayesha Erkin

March. Covid came. And I wish I could say it went. But it’s still here. 

It took a lot from everyone. From me, it took away a sense of independence & tossed away any semblance of a life plan.10 years of resisting a life that wasn’t the stereotypical Muslim brown girls fate; staying at home until you’re married.

But, I ended up moving in with my parents, in a town I wasn’t familiar with – my lease ended. I was lonely. I’d be working remotely. I was lonely. My cat was with my sister. Austin wasn’t the same city. I was lonely. It just made sense.

April. My brother tested positive for Covid. He lived at home and was a nurse; we knew he’d get it eventually. “I sent a plate of fruits for Majid,” my mom messaged in our WhatsApp group. Any immigrant child knows that’s code for love. My sister delivered it, gloves ready, outside his door where he was self isolating for two weeks.

May. Ramadan came. A time for community, food, prayer & family. Also a time I was reminded yearly how my life revolved around working & my own needs. I was trying to thrive in a low context culture during a high context month. I spent the entire month with my family for the first time in years. It was lovely.

I started spending more time in the kitchen documenting than cooking. There were stories to be listened to while we instinctively made recipes passed down from generations before. Through food, I found my own identity. My third culture mixed diasporic immigrant identity; a comforting bit of clarity in a lifelong journey of confusion, rooted in what we eat. I’m cherishing this time. Our familial act of gathering together, listening through cooking & the love we deliver through a plate of cut fruit.

The Recipe: Gajar Ka Halwa

Ingredients

-6 large carrots

-3 tablespoons ghee

-1/2 cup milk

-1/2 cup evaporated milk

-3/4 cup sugar (or less, sweeten to taste)

-1 teaspoon green cardamom powder

-1/2 cup khoya (I made a fake one; see notes)

-3-4 almonds, slivered (cashews, work)

-1 tablespoon blanched and chopped pistachios

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Grate carrots and set aside. * Heat ghee in a deep non-stick pan. Add grated carrots, mix and cook for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook for 4 minutes or until looking mushy. Add milk & carnation to the carrots, cover and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the milk has evaporated. Add sugar, mix and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add cardamom powder and mix. Add khoya and mix until it melts. Add in the nuts. 

Serve hot. Usually, this dish is garnished with nuts and silver warq (it’s like an edible silver paper).

Notes:

*You want to make sure to use fresh carrots, pre-grated are too dry. I used a hand grater and that was painful so just use a food processor with an attachment if you have one to save time and your fingers.

**For the Khoya, I didn’t have any but I did find a recipe to make some with things I had from the @spicecravings blog. I mixed ricotta, ghee and milk powder together heated in increments in the microwave and turned out just fine! Super fast and easy khoya when you’re in a pinch.

Growing up in three different continents & coming from a multi-cultural hybrid family, Ayesha has been exposed to varied aspects of the built environment from a young age. With that & working in architecture, she’s been able to fine tune her creative perspective to be sensitive in regards to space, time, people & place. Ayesha can be found working in all mediums of design but champions for inclusivity, purpose & connection in her work. When not designing, she is involved with community building (she co-founded @browngirlsfoodclub, a space for BIPOC womxn to connect while dining at local minority owned restaurants), mentoring marginalized youth & giving into her multipotentialite tendencies. One of her long term obsessions has been researching the intersection between food heritage, identity & immigration – a topic that surfaced from her own journey of placing roots within a third culture diasporic upbringing. Keep up with Ayesha at @ayeshaerkin on IG or  https://www.ayeshaerkin.com/.

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