Semolina is a popular ingredient in Indo-Mauritian cuisine. The fine sand-like powder is known here as greo or sooji. I guess it gets automatically associated with pujas and religious festivals in the minds of most. Semolina halwa undeniably tops the list when it comes to offerings for prayers. Readily available ingredients, low cost and ease of preparation makes it ideal for mass production.

The pious festival of Maha Shivratree is one such occasion where volunteers prepare and distribute semolina halwa to devotees on their way to Grand Bassin. Gato banane[deep fried banana batter], bajia[deep fried gramflour batter], puri, briyani, juice, tea [and even raincoats by some private radios] are among the other things you can find at the resting places specially accommodated at various points for the pilgrimage.

The whole country seems to have been sanctified by the spirit of Shiv Bhakti as thousands fight tiredness and heavy rain to converge towards the sacred lake days before we celebrate the Great Night of Shiva. This year must have been a record in terms of number and size for kanwars. Was there some national kanwar competition that I was unaware of :S


1 1/2 cups semolina
1 cup milk
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla or almond essence 
1/2 tsp cardamom
Zest of 1 lemon/orange
2 tbs lemon/orange juice


  • Mix sugar and yogurt thoroughly so that the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Then add all the other ingredients to the mixture.
  • Let the batter stand overnight. Keep it covered.
  • This enables the semolina to soften before baking.

  • Pre-heat oven to 350oF.
  • Grease and line a 9″ baking pan with waxed paper or aluminium foil. Cake will be easier to remove from pan.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tray.
  • Bake for 50to 60 minutes until it is golden in colour.
  • Wait for it to cool completely before slicing.
  • Store it in the fridge after a day.

Recipe adapted from Food-n-More

You should expect a dense cake with a subtle nutty flavour. I used 2 lemons for this recipe, juice & zest + 1 medium orange. The citrus flavour was slightly overwhelming but did not hurt the overall taste, judging from the large fraction of cake that disappeared during afternoon tea. The top was a little overbaked and crunchy giving a nice contrast to the softer layers beneath.

With this I wish a pious Maha Shivaratree to all. Om Namah Shivaya.