I have a sweet tooth and fortunately I have no issues with either ghee or sugar so my preferred desserts are mainly Indian sweets. Every region has its own specialty and a distinct way of preparing the sweets. Sweets were offered to the deities and were part of every auspicious occasion in Indian households. No meal is considered complete without a sweet dish. Mostly the sweets are made keeping in mind the local ingredients, climatic conditions, geography and cultural heritage.
Indian sweets are mainly f two kinds – milk based and flour based. No where in the world one would find such richness of textures, flavours, colors and shapes in desserts as in India. Many of these recipes originated centuries ago and a lot of them have slowly disappeared from the home kitchens and markets due to the time-consuming and tedious process of preparing them. Many sweets were just limited to homes and were cooked on special occasions, festivals only. These irresistible delicacies evolved and influenced by other cuisines over the time but they have not lost their original identity, in fact they have become richer and suited to the palate of modern health conscious people.
Some of the desserts like kheer, laddoo and halwa (pudding), barfi are popular across North India and prepared more than other sweets. Some variations of these are also used as Prasadam in various temples and in religeous ceremonies at home.
I love Carrot Halwa, Moong daal halwa and whole wheat halwa but sooji halwa is something one can make in jiffy on any given day when the craving becomes too much to handle.
Sooji or semlina halwa is one of the most popular desserts in India and there are many variations to the dish. This moist “spiritually infused” comfort food is loved by almost everyone. It looks very easy to make but can go wrong drastically if not made with care. Many new brides are told to make it as their first preparation in the kitchen to judge their culinary skills .
Here is my recipe of Sooji halwa with saffron and fresh grated coconut.
Sooji / rava or Semolina – I cup (I use the coarse variety not the fine one)
Sugar – 1 cup ( according to the taste)
Grated Fresh Coconut – 1/2 cup
Milk – 2 table-spoon
water – 3 cups
saffron – few strands
Nuts and Raisins – per choice
Green cardamom – 2-3
Clarified butter / Pure ghee – three table Spoon full
Warm the milk and add saffron strands to it. Mix well and leave to get the color and flavor.
Dry roast semolina on low flame till pink . (Always slightly roast semolina before putting in away in air light containers. It won’t go bad)
Dry roast fresh grated coconut on low heat till it changes color slightly .
Soak the raisins , almonds etc in some water , drain and keep aside.
Now take a heavy bottom wok or pan and put the clarified butter / ghee in it. Heat the pan on high flame and then lower the flame.
Add sooji /semolina in it and keep stirring till it becomes slightly golden-yellow. Then add grated coconut and green cardamom to it.
Stir the mixture on very low heat till you can get the aroma of the roasted ingredients and make sure not to brown them too much. Tip: Use wooden spoon or a spatula.
Once done add water and stir quickly so that there are no lumps. Keep it on medium flame.
Add saffron milk and stir. Lower the flame again.
The mixture will bubble and thicken.
Once all the water is absorbed add sugar. (Some people make sugar syrup but I prefer it this way. Adding sugar after the mixture has absorbed ware will ensure that the semolina has properly soaked the moisture and puffed properly. Once sugar is added the process stops)
Gently turn the mixture so that it gets cooked properly . Add raisins and nuts.
Once the halwa gets a nice pudding like grainy texture and leaves the sides. Make sure it doesn’t become too dry or too sticky. Keep heat low.
Making it a few times will get the right texture. After all it is an art. Just follow the simple rules of heat adjustments and measurements. Water should be thrice the amount of sooji. 1 cup sooji – 3 cup water. Keep the heat on lower side. Give it some love and patience. There are no short cuts to good cooking. Roast sooji properly or the raw taste will ruin the halwa but do not brown it too much. Keep trying and you will succeed. I too had my share of horrors when I learned it as a girl.
Turn off the heat and stir & break the pudding in such a way that it doesn’t form a large mass. Take it out in a serving dish.
Garnish with nuts and serve hot.
As we say in Hindustani ” meetha khao meetha bolo” ( Eat sweet and speak sweet )