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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blueberry Pecan Halavah (Indian Semolina Dessert)

By popular request from our University of Maryland cooking class today, here is the recipe for blueberry halavah. :-)

Halavah is a traditional dessert from India and the Middle East and comes in many varieties.
This particular variey is made with semolina. I like adding blueberries as they are rich in anti-oxidants, healthy, tasty and not least they make the halavah an outrageous rich purple! :-D

Its such a fun and versatile dish -- as one of my friends said, he loves to make it because it has a small explosion as a legitimate part of the cooking -- and you can make it in almost any flavor you fancy. My mum makes the best Halavah ever -- with a medley of dried fruits; apricots, raisons, dates etc., -- its so yummy. It can even be made with carrots (!!) -- called Gajar Halvah in Hindi -- but thats an entirely different recipe, so we'll do that another time. It can also be made as a savory dish with salt instead of sugar and fried veggies instead of fruits. . .it sounds unusual to the western palate but its quite delicious.

The secret of seriously good halavah is to roast the semolina grains slowly or 10 -15 mins in enough butter or vegan substitute so as not to scorch the grains. Let it steam in its own heat 5-10 mins after cooking so the grains plump up and it becomes nice and fluffy, ( though it will change consistency and more solid when it cools). Halavah is a comfort food and great served piping hot on a cold winters day. Though it is traditionally made with butter, to make it vegan just use a vegetable oil/ shortening/margerine etc instead.

This recipe serves 6-8 people. Takes about 30 mins to prep and cook.

Blueberry Halavah
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups brown cane sugar
  • 140g margerine/veg shortening/butter
  • 1 1/4 cups coarse semolina (Suji in Hindi)
  • 1/3 cup pecan nut halves
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (rinsed off in cold water)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Combine water & sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover with a lid so it remains hot.

Melt butter or vegan substitute fat in another heavy bottomed saucepan. The heat should be low so as not to burn the fat. Add the semolina.

Slowly stir-fry the semolina grains until they become a light tan color. About 1/2 way thorugh add the pecan nuts.

Turn the heat on under the sugar water again and bring to a rolling boil. Now comes the fun part! Turn off heat under the semolina saucepan and pour the sugar water into the semolina mixture. Careful! Its very hot and it will have a small volcanic explosion when the ingredients meet! Protect your hand from any hot splashes of liquid halava (almost said lava!) with a cloth or so and stir til smooth. The spluttering will soon die down as the liquid is absorbed into the grains. Add in the blueberries and vanilla essence.

Return pan to the stove on a low heat and stir steadily until the grains have fully absorbed the liquid. Its important not to let it burn or the subtle flavor of the roasted grains will be lost. When the mixture turns into a more pudding like consistency and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan its time to place a lid on it and lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Cook like this for 5 minutes, then turn off heat and let it steam in its own heat another 5 minutes.

Its ready! Serve hot as is, or with cream , custard or as a side dish to a larger meal. Delicious!

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