I took a tiny break from the kitchen as I had lotsa other stuff to do that I kept postponing. I could afford to put them off since I’m still on holidays but I feel more comfortable knowing that they are not on my to-do list any longer.
Baking did not happen this weekend. I did cook to feed myself for lunch and dinner but the dishes were either repeats of what I’ve written before or not creative enough to be blogged about. I had planned to make a rich semolina halva this week and thought it would be best to skip the calorie-filled desserts over weekend in anticipation of my all-time favourite halva.
I’m glad I picked this particular halva for Hanuman Jayanti. It is said that the monkey god has a penchant for fruits and this ‘fruity’ halva was just the thing to be offered for the puja held on his birthday.
The ceremony starts early around 06:00 so that people can attend before they leave for work. Hanuman chalisa and other stutis/poems are chanted in honour of the greatest bhakt of Lord Rama. Stories depicting his wisdom, strength and devotion are also told in mandirs and on radio.
It was while listening to Dr Bisnauthsing on RadioPlus that I put together this wonderfully aromatic halva. Yup, the one I told you I learnt from a guy from the local ISKCON group ages ago if you remember. Today I made it with the help of a sketchy list of ingredients from a faded notebook, my memory of the steps involved and a bit of imagination.
This is not a fat free version, au contraire you should expect to splurge on some good quality french butter and make this once in a while [for special occasions]. In case you need to watch your waistline I’ve blogged about the regular healthier [only 1tbs butter!] halva recipe here 🙂
FRUIT & SEMOLINA HALVA
3 cups semolina, sifted
1 cup unsalted butter
5 cups water
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbs light muscovado
1 medium orange
1 small lemon
2 medium Gala apples
5 pineapple rings
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 cup almonds
3-4 cardamom pods
- Start by preparing fruit. Peel orange and lemon thinly with a vegetable peeler. Grind rinds coarsely or cut into thin strips.
- Separate orange into segments discarding membranes and seeds.
- Squeeze the juice of the lemon in a small bowl and set aside.
- Core apples and dice them with skin on. Combine with lemon juice and keep covered to prevent them from getting oxidised/turning brown.
- Cut pineapple rings into small pieces. You can use fresh or canned.
- Blanch almonds and chop coarsely or finely as you like them.
- Now heat 5 cups water in a large heavy based saucepan.
- Dissolve sugar and light muscovado in water and bring to the boil.
- Add fruit to boiling syrup and reduce heat to low. Cover with lid.
- You can also add spices to your syrup if you wish. I used cardamom but I guess cinnamon sticks are also a good option here.
- It is best to prepare your pan/mould at this point [before you start woking with the semolina]. You can skip this step if you wish to serve halva in dessert bowls rather than shaping them in individual pieces.
- In a large non stick pan, melt butter over low heat. Some recipes use ghee [clarified butter] but I fear it might be a tad too rich.
- Slowly add semolina to melted butter and stir to incorporate.
- Keep stirring over low heat for 15-20 minutes. You should notice a progressive change in colour [off white to tan] as well as in aroma.
- Never leave the semolina unattended. Do not let it sit for too long without stirring or it may scorch and burn quite rapidly.
- Add the almonds or other nuts to roasted semolina and stir for 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat but keep stirring. Heat from the pan will cause semolina to continue cooking for some time.
- The fruit syrup mixture should be ready by now. Carefully pour it over the semolina, a little at a time, so that it has time to get absorbed and does not splutter much. Stir vigorously to break down lumps.
- Place pan over stove once more and cook over low heat until the semolina soaks up all the syrup and gets a halva consistency.
- Cook for 2 min before turning off heat. Cover and leave for 5 min.
- Turn out hot halva into prepared pan/mould. Level surface and leave to set at room temperature for 45 minutes. Do not place in fridge.
- Cut halva into cubes. If you are impatient you do not need to wait for it to set into fancy shapes. Simply scoop warm halva into dessert bowls and serve right away with slices of ripe bananas.
- Another idea is to roll it into balls and coat with shredded coconut.