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Semolina’s comforting texture, rich taste and easy-on-the stomach quality are not the only best things about it. Due to its potassium content, semolina improves kidney function. It increases immunity for being a good source of two vital vitamins: E and the B group, and of course, the traces of phosphorus, zinc and magnesium in semolina are beneficial for bones and the nervous system.
With so much to offer in a plate, I could not resist sharing this old family recipe of the famous Indo-Pak sweet, locally called suji ka halwa. Made and enjoyed in Pakistan and India for hundreds of years, this quick and easy to makehalwa has adorned dining tables of the Mughal kings for years.
I first learned how to make it when I was 11, and spending my vacation at my grandma’s house. Every time I make it, I feel the same aroma that I had fallen in love with in her kitchen, and since then I’ve believed that no one makes it better than her.
A compulsory item on an Indo-Pak menu on any given rainy day, a cold night or an indulging grand Sunday breakfast. While you read this, I am taking to the kitchen to make some for my family, because it’s drizzling here where I live. I am certain you will love it, and so will your guests. So enthral them with your ‘Indo-Pak cuisine skills’, and of course, you can thank me later. Here’s the recipe:
Preparation and cooking time 20 minutes
1 ½ cups semolina
1 cup clarified butter/ghee (available from any Indian/Pakistani shop)
6 pods cardamom
3 cups water (the idea is always using double of the quantity of semolina)
1 cup sugar (brown/white – you can increase it if you like yours sweeter)
A few drops of yellow food colouring
Raisins, soaked in warm water for a few minutes, to garnish
Pistachios, roughly chopped, to garnish
Almonds and dried coconut, sliced, to garnish
- Heat ghee/butter in a deep skillet on a low flame.
- Add cloves and cardamom pods, and fry until they start giving off aroma.
- Add semolina and keep stirring to avoid making lumps. The semolina is quick at absorbing the butter so make sure it’s mixed well to make a batter with thick consistency. Keep stirring until the semolina starts changing colour to golden brown.
- Meanwhile, also put the water on the stove to boil in a separate pan. Add sugar and yellow food colour. Cook until the sugar is dissolved. This should take a few minutes.
- Add the water mixture to the semolina slowly and keep stirring. At this point, the stirring might become a little difficult as the sweet starts to thicken. Use the cooking spoon to break any lumps that may form at this point.
- Bring it to your choice of consistency. Do not overcook as semolina gets harder the more it is cooked. Ideally, it is considered prepared when it begins to come away from the sides of the pan as you stir the spoon. But it should still be soft.
- Put in the serving dish and garnish with chopped pistachios, almonds, dried coconut and raisins. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- I like to have mine with green tea, which also helps wash down traces of ghee.
By Ayesha Hasan