Ramadan is quickly drawing to a close, which means it is almost the end of month-long fasts for Muslims around the world. I say it every year but the feeling is always the same- it seems to end all too soon! Eid Al Fitr, which follows the end of Ramadan, is a day of celebration and hospitality. Houses often bulge with guests and kitchens burst at the seams with the number of delicacies that are churned out at a menacing pace. It is customary on Eid to wake up and eat something sweet (usually a date), although this ritual is something that tends to be practiced throughout the entire day!
In my family, desserts are a big deal. My grandmother believes that if it's not drenched in syrup or fried in ghee, it is never going to be sweet enough. One of the most lucid memories I have as a child is watching her countless times on nights before Eid, beating cauldrons of semolina, carrots and syrup to make a popular South East Asian dessert- sooji ka halwa. It's not the easiest dessert to make, but once perfected it will be the talk of the town (or at least, your dadi's mob of O.A.Ps!) I decided to hand them out in little favour boxes to family and friends this year- a totally frivolous step that can be skipped, I promise!
Servings: 15-20 portions
Prep+cooking time: 1hr 15mins
- 2 cups fine semolina
- 2 cups grated carrot
- 1/2 cup melted ghee
- 2/3 cup caster sugar
- 5 cups water
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken
- 2 cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 bay leaf, torn in half
- 1 star anise
1) Start off by grating carrots and boiling them in a pan of water with a pinch of salt, for about 10 minutes. Leave to drain and cool on one side.
2) For the sooji, you will need two pans. In one, start over a high heat to create the syrup by boiling water, sugar and spices. Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes. You want it to thicken but remain transparent.
3) In another pan over a medium-high heat, melt the ghee and roast the semolina until it is golden brown. This should take 15 minutes. Avoid burning the semolina by constantly stirring. If you are concerned then start with a medium heat and adjust as necessary.
4) Turn off the heat and remove the sooji-ghee mix from the stove. Add the drained grated carrot and carefully pour in the syrup. You must start stirring the mixture immediately to avoid lumps (this is also why we boiled the grated carrot.) Remove the star anise and other spices to avoid unpleasant bark in your halwa.
5) The texture you are aiming for should be light and still moist but dense enough to hold it's shape. You don't want sooji ka halwa to be dry and crumbly!
6) Sooji ka halwa is best served warm, with crushed roasted cashews or icecream.
Lastly, I would like to wish everyone a blessed Eid! Tweet me the delights you're treating yourself to @golden_tiffin