Today was the day that I first time hit the publish button, with this post, at the EFS blog with a gamut of emotions running through my mind – excitement at the prospect of promising things to come, joy of beginning a new venture, pride for owning a blog, apprehension whether or not I was doing the right thing and whether anyone would ever visit EFS and fear of rejection/ failure and many such emotions which perhaps are difficult to put in words. But none of them included the emotion of confidence that I would be able to keep the blog running for four years; even though not consecutive four years. In fact I had never imagined that I would ever come this far. Nor had I imagined that EFS will be able to garner so much love and support from its readers, followers and fellow bloggers; feel blessed indeed. The blogging community is amazing and for the initial first year, I was in awe of it. I not only received love for my blog but also encouraging and understanding words. Words that sometimes helped me push myself & go beyond my capabilities, words that infused confidence in me during the blog’s initial phase, words that were kind and supportive. However, no words from my side are capable of expressing my gratitude to this amazing community of bloggers who have always been there with me, for me. And this stands true especially when, for personal reasons, I had to take a sabbatical from EFS for nearly a year. I was welcomed back with warmth and love as if I had never left the space! I thank you all for your immense and constant support. Without it, EFS would not have been celebrating this joyous 4th year of blogging.
We may be connecting with each other via this virtual world but I choose to believe our connections are unquestionably steadfast and sincere. You guys not just encouraged me and supported me but also opened before me a new world of cuisines. I learned a lot from my visits to your blogs – about new ingredients, about new dishes, new methods & styles of cooking, of ways to presenting food, of how to think out of the box and much more. These four years have been that of immense fun and learning.
Unlike the Chocolate & Beetroot Cake that I baked for the third blog-anniversary, this time around I thought of celebrating it with an Indian dessert especially when I have been receiving requests for recipe for a decadent Sooji Halwa / Semolina Pudding. It happens to be my mother’s tried tested trusted recipe. My Mum’s recipes were mostly simple and humble except for her Snowball Pudding and the Caramel Bread Pudding and Orange Crème Caramel (will try to post it this year) where she used to add bread to give thickness to the pudding. I have taken the liberty to tweak her halwa recipe to make it even better. It so happened that long back, my husband and I were having lunch at a south Indian restaurant named Naivedyam at Hauz Khas Village and we ordered their Kesari (another name for Halwa or Sheera) for the dessert. I have never had such delicious halwa ever before. I used to enjoy mum’s preparation but theirs’ was melting in the mouth and delicious to the point of being addictive. I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way back home. Now, my husband may not be able to cook to save his life but he has very refined taste buds. I can rarely fool him with a recipe where I happen to tweak it or try feeding his not so favourite food, disguised of course; he catches the missing or the added ingredients in an instant. He suggested that I try using milk to give the halwa that richness which we so loved in the restaurant halwa and use some saffron along with our usual spice, cardamom. Lo and behold! Bingo! It rather turned out better than the Naivedyam preparation! Hubby had indeed hit the nail.
Just as I had added toasted and coarsely powdered almonds for these Besan Laddus since my family does not like chopped pieces of nuts in their food. For this recipe too, I have added some toasted and crushed almonds that made the halwa even more luxurious and exquisite. I do not believe in using tags such as “best ever” when defining my recipes but for this one – I simply couldn’t resist coz this is seriously the best and the recipe is definitely for keeps…trust me.
You will need:
1 C Rava / Suji / Semolina
¾ C Home made Ghee
1 ½ C Water
2 C Milk
½ C Almonds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 Cup Sugar
¼ tsp Saffron strands (I used Kashmiri Saffron which is pretty strong)
½ tsp Cardamom Powder
A few almonds and raisins to garnish
Measure out half a cup of milk from the two measured cups and warm it. Add the saffron strands and let it stand for at least an hour for the saffron to bleed its colour and infuse its flavours into the milk. Measure and keep rest of the ingredients ready at hand.
Melt the ghee in a heavy bottomed wok. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the semolina. Keep stirring and roasting till the semolina emanates a nice nutty aroma and changes its color (approximately 20 minutes)
Carefully add the water and milk, along with the saffron milk and increase the heat to medium high or high. (Reduce the heat when the liquid starts to splatter) Allow all the liquid to be absorbed or till the halwa starts coming together as one mass. Reduce the heat to minimum and add cardamom powder and crushed almonds. Mix well and switch off the heat. Stir in sugar till it is completely incorporated.
Serve garnished with almonds and raisins.
Serves: 8 – 10
Note: I soak the saffron for a good 3 hours.
Note: I did mention ¾ cup ghee (the amount my Mum used to use), however, I use ½ cup and I feel it is just as fine. You can adjust the amount that suits you.
Note: Since my family does not like nuts or raisins in their food, I added the nuts crushed. Feel free to add them chopped for texture and a more pronounced taste.
Note: The halwa tastes best served warm or hot.
Note: The halwa refrigerates well for 3 – 4 days. To reheat the halwa you can add a few tablespoons of milk.
Note: You can add some desiccated or freshly grated coconut to the halwa if you wish to or sprinkle some over the top along with the nuts and raisins.
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