semolina - Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta, breakfast cereals, puddings and couscous. Semolina is also used to designate coarse middlings from other varieties of wheat, and from other grains such as rice and corn.
Halva - (or halawa, xalwo, haleweh, ħelwa, halvah, halava, helava, helva, halwa, halua, aluva, chalva, chałwa) refers to many types of dense, sweet confections, served across the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Malta and the Jewish world.
With its origins possibly in Abyssinia or southern parts of the Mediterranean ocean, semolina is a wonderful, hearty, protein rich grain that has been around for a very long time. Also known in many parts of the world as “cream of wheat”, semolina is used to make popular products such as breads, pasta, couscous, tabbouleh and noodles to name a few.
What I find very fascinating is how the grain has found its way into many cultures and is used extensively is so many cuisines.In the Indian sub-continent, lightly sweetened semolina porridge is one of the first solids introduced to a baby’s diet. It is considered nourishing and rich in nutrients the same.
If I were to pick my top 5 favourite comfort foods, Sooji Ka Halwa,a popular Pakistani dessert prepared with semolina, would definitely rate very high. A rich sweet when cooked perfectly, embodies the density and wonderful texture of semolina. Sooji ka halwa is also a much loved Pakistani breakfast dish often served with freshly friend pooris (and ofcourse, perfectly acceptable all other times of the day as well!). It might look deliciously complex and elaborate but Sooji Ka Halwa is, in effect, deceptively simple. Read below to find out how!
Sooji Ka Halwa (Semolina Dessert)
You will need:
- 4 tbsp clarified butter(ghee) or plain butter
- 1 cup semolina or cream of wheat (sooji)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4-6 green cardamom pods lightly cracked
- 3 tsp sultanas/green raisins
- 2 tsp powdered almonds,pistachios and cardamoms
- 2 cups water
- A pinch of orange or yellow food coloring
- Combine the water, sugar and food coloring and bring to a boil until sugar has fully dissolved and forms a light syrup. Set aside.
- Heat ghee/butter in a heavy based wok , add cardamom pods and 1 tsp of the powdered nuts, reserve the second tsp for later.This step infuses the butter with a lovely nutty, cardamom flavour.
- As the cardamom and nuts release a light fragrance, add the semolina and green raisins and fry for about 5-8 minutes on medium heat. Allow the semolina to become a nice, roasted brown taking care not to burn it.
- Once the ghee begins to separate from the semolina, add the sugar syrup, stir well and then cover to cook on medium-low heat for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until most of the moisture has evaporated.
- The halwa is now ready, the texture should feel soft and moist. If there are still some semolina grains that feel raw , add a bit of water and simmer until the halwa is cooked through.
- Sprinkle remaining powdered nuts as garnishing and serve warm – ideally with freshly made pooris or just plain.
Mmm who needs restaurants when you can whip up delicious comfort food in your own kitchen.
Over to you, what are your favourite comfort foods and why?