You all can’t even begin to imagine how excited I am for Eid (celebration at the end of Ramadan) this year. Fasting this year was tough and there were rumors circulating that it might fall on Saturday depending on the lunar sighting. As far as I was concerned, Eid was to be on Friday no matter what the council of whoever decided.
Most of this Ramadan was spent at my in-laws. I previously mentioned how they are all about food. Somehow my mother-in-law manages to spend the whole day cooking in the kitchen even though everyone is fasting. Let me tell you, I have eaten my fair share this month.
If I am going to resort back to my previous eating habits I might as well end my over consumption with a great bang. One last hurrah, if you will. I asked my mother-in-law to share her recipe for sooji ka halwa (semolina dessert with cardamom, nuts, and green raisins).
Growing up we would eat this on Eid and on other religious holidays. A taste of this halwa brings me back many childhood memories of Eid and summers in Pakistan. Halwa is usually eaten with pooris and chanay. Pooris are a decadent treat that brings the indulgence of halwa to another level. When you buy pooris from the market stall they soak the paper bags and newspaper with oil. Hmm, I might just eat my halwa with a spoon. On the other hand, halwa without poori, poori without halwa, whichever way you look at it something is missing.
My mother-in-law was quite excited for me to make this with her and also that I would be posting it. She can make anything Pakistani and it most surely turns out to be absolutely amazing. She doesn’t even trust me in the kitchen, partially because I cut corners where oil, butter, and ghee are concerned and she is never satisfied with food unless it is made by her. If I help her in the kitchen my position is reserved for chopping onions and assembling her mise en place. I have learned a great deal by watching her cook on our visits to my in-laws. I might use less oil or whatever but, the main concept of sharing a recipe and learning from others is there, something that is priceless. I have added new dish to my repertoire, a dish of tradition that I can share on upcoming Eid with others.
Sooji ka Halwa (Semolina Dessert with Cardamom, Nuts, and Green Raisins)
Serves 4-6 (servings here are relative, it could serve 8 if only having a small quantity)
1 1/3 cup finely ground semolina, sooji found in Indian-Pakistani grocers
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 green cardamoms, slightly crushed
2 cups water
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds (can use whole almonds with skin and sliver them), plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup green raisins or sultanas, plus extra for garnish
3-4 drops of kewra water or rose water, optional
a few leaves of edible silver leaf, warq (we couldn’t find it, thus did not use it)
Heat a wide pan on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil and drop in the cardamom pods and allow the aroma to infuse the oil for about 2 minutes. Add in the semolina and stir the oil with the semolina so that it absorbs and becomes dry.
Keep stirring every 30 seconds until the semolina until the color changes and you smell the fragrance of slight roasting. Roast until light brown, about 7-10 minutes and then add the remaining 2 tablespoons on butter and allow it ooze and melt into the semolina. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the sugar and mix until combined.
Next, stream in the water and return to the heat (increase the heat to medium-high) and keep stirring until the semolina thickens, about 5 minutes. When it has thickened reduce the heat to low. Add in raisins, almonds, and the few drops of kewra water (if you are using it). The consistency should be that of a thick porridge or oatmeal. Garnish with the silver leaf, raisins, and almonds. Serve warm or some like it chilled. For a real treat serve with pooris.
*optional-you may infuse the oil with a few strands of saffron if you like.