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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nutty Sooji Pineapple Halwa




















Halwa/Halva (or halawa, xalwo, haleweh, ħelwa, halvah, halava, helava, helva, halwa, halua, aluva, chalva, chałwa) refers to many types of dense, sweet confections, served across the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Malta and the Jewish world.

The term halva (Arabic: حلوى‎ halwā), meaning "sweet", is used to describe two types of desserts:

Flour-based - This type of halva is slightly gelatinous and made from grain flour, typically semolina. The primary ingredients are clarified butter, flour, and sugar.

Nut-butter-based - This type of halva is crumbly and usually made from tahini (sesame paste) or other nut butters, such as sunflower seed butter. The primary ingredients are nuts, butter and sugar.

Halva may also be based on numerous other ingredients, including sunflower seeds, various nuts, beans, lentils, and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, yams, and squashes.

This sooji halwa, produced and served in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan and surrounding countries (different versions of it are also found in Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Montenegro and Turkey), is usually made with wheat semolina, sugar or honey, and butter or vegetable oil. Raisins, dates, other dried fruits, or nuts such as almonds or walnuts, are often added to semolina halva.

In India, though semolina halwa is considered to be essentially a "Northern" confection, it is also quite popular in South India. A prominent South Indian version of halva (or alvaa in Tamil) is from Tirunelveli, a city in the state of Tamil Nadu. A closely related semolina preparation widely enjoyed throughout South India is called kesari or kesari-bath.

In Pakistan and India, carrots (for gajar halwa), mung beans (for moong dal halwa) or bottle gourds (for doodi halwa) are also used instead of semolina. Prepared with condensed milk and ghee, without semolina to bind it together, the end result has a moist, yet flaky, texture when freshly prepared. Just a note that my mom makes the best doodhi (bottle gourd) halwa and gajar (carrots) halwa.

I am going to post those recipes one of these day, but for now lets concentrate on this Sooji Halwa. Typically in India, Sooji Halwa is made with Semolina, ghee, sugar and few nuts and raisins with cardamom and saffron for flavoring.

However as you can see from the name of my dish, I make this with a little twist by adding crushed pineapple and lot of nuts to it, it makes it little less sweet, nutty and fruity.



Ingredients:



* 3/4 cup Sooji (Semolina or Cream of wheat)

* 1/4 cup of Besan (Gram flour preferably coarse one that is used for laddu or you can omit this and just use 1 cup of sooji)

* 1 stick of unsalted butter or 1/2 cup of ghee

* 1/2 cup of almonds slivered or chopped in food processor

* 1/4 cup pistachio chopped in food processor

* 1/4 cup of cashews chopped

* 1/4 cup golden raisins (I did not use them this time)

* 1 1/4 cup sugar

* 1 can of crushed pineapple drained

* 1 1/4 cup of boiling water

* 1 teaspoon of crushed cardamom seeds (divided in two parts)

* 1/4 teaspoon of saffron strands soaked and crushed in tablespoon of warm milk



Method:



* Save some nuts and half of crushed cardamoms for garnish.

* Melt butter or Ghee in a shallow frying pan (shaped like a wok)

* Add semolina and besan and roast it on medium to low heat constantly stirring with a spatula for 5 min or until it emits nice toasty smell of flour and the flour is light brown but not burnt.

* Add chopped almonds, pistachio and Cashews and roast for another 2-3 min.

* Add sugar stir and mix well.

* Carefully and slowly add boiling water to the flour, while stove is still on medium low heat. Stir it constantly and then gradually add the crushed pineapple, saffron crushed in milk and cardamom.

* If you are using raisin, you can add them at this point, I did not use raisins this time.

* Cook on stove top for about 5 min constantly stirring and mixing it, then transfer the content in a microwave safe container.

* Cook in microwave uncovered, stirring it every min for about 7-8 min, or until the butter start separating from flour.

* Mix well.

* Garnish with remaining nuts.


* Serve hot :)



Hints:


* You can make the recipe more or less sweet by adjusting amount of sugar.

* In India they use amount of Ghee same as that of Sooji, but I cut it in to half, if you like it with more Ghee or butter you may use more.

* You can add or delete any nuts, and as you can see raisins are totally optional too.

* Some people use boiling milk instead of boiling water, you can try that if you like or you can use half of each.

* Some people use light yellow food coloring, but I prefer to make it without color as pineapple and saffron gives it a natural yellow tint.

Enjoy !

Information source for Halwa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halva
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_Creative_Commons_Attribution-ShareAlike_3.0_Unported_License

Recipes and photographs by Surekha.

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