semolina halva

semolina halva

Thank you so much for all your kind words and support. To be honest, things have definitely become a little crazy here but we're trying to tackle the madness together and that's what makes it fun! I've chalked out my bucket list of places I've wanted to eat at or want to eat at again, sights I want to see; but how much of this I will get to accomplish, I'm not sure but I'm going to give this my best shot.

semolina and golden raisins

Have you ever tried a semolina halva? It's probably my favorite halva because of its simplicity and  the toasted aroma of semolina can be pretty delicious and comforting. This halva is wickedly two-faced and satisfying, you can eat it for breakfast or serve it as dessert, either way it never disappoints!

Semolina is the tinier cousin of bulgur and it resembles a fine sand. You need to lightly toast the semolina but be careful while doing this as it can burn fast, the photograph below shows how deep I let it brown and should give you a rough idea of what the semolina must look like. You can also use ghee instead of coconut oil (stick to the same amounts) in this recipe. The semolina itself is lightly sweetened but the golden raisins impart a pop of sweetness with every bite you take. The rose water is completely optional and I don't like nuts with this halva so I didn't add any but feel free to add a few mixed nuts with the raisins if you prefer to.

toasted semolina for halva

Here are some of my fellow blogger peeps that made me very hungry this week!
  • What's for Breakfast, Today? by Marta is a spectacular collection of food and travel photographs that if you haven't come across already, you need to check it out! Her work is inspiring and tasty!
  • Molly of My Name is Yeh whipped up a batch of pretzel shortbread cookies and then drizzled them with chocolate. I want to eat each and every cookie she baked.
  • I'm on a breakfast kick these days and Kelly of The Gouda Life is responsible for this, reason being her blackberry sour cream muffins.
I'm also super thankful to the wonderful folks at The Kitchn for mentioning my Fennel Roasted Strawberry Frozen Yogurt as part of their Delicious Links series, last week!


semolina halva with golden raisins

semolina halva

yields: 2-4 servings

ingredients

1 cup semolina
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup green cardamom, freshly ground 
3-4 tablespoons sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoons rose water (optional)

1. Take a large non-stick wok or large saucepan (you need a pan with large surface area to evenly brown the semolina) with a lid and heat the wok on a medium-high flame. Pour the semolina into the wok and toast the semolina until the granules just begin to turn golden brown. Stir the semolina while toasting to prevent any burning. As soon as the the semolina starts to turns golden brown remove from the wok from the stove and add the coconut oil, raisins and cardamom. Place back on the stove and cook for one 45 seconds with constant stirring.
2. Add the sugar and water, stir the contents. Cover the wok with a lid and reduce the flame to medium-low. Cook the contents for about 5 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated. Remove the lid and stir the contents, all the liquid should be completely evaporated at this point and the semolina should be soft and fluffy. Remove the wok from the stove and sprinkle the rose water over the halva. You can serve the halva as is or use a mold to shape it. Serve this halva warm, store in airtight container and refrigerate excess, reheat before serving.

Note: You can also garnish the halva with toasted nuts or sweetened shredded coconut. I haven't done that here but feel free to do so if you like.

orange and fennel semolina cake


I have a citrus addiction, limes, lemons, sweet limes, oranges, blood oranges, etc. There is something wonderful about the fragrant smell of citrus plants and trees. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I remember urging my father to pick me a little lime plant. The poor lime plant didn't last for more than a few months but it gave me one of my fondest scented childhood memories. I would rub the leaves of the lime plant between my palms and sniff the scent off my fingers. It was simply heavenly and these days I really wish I could grow some in the garden


On our way back from a quick trip to the beach last weekend, we stopped by a market in North Carolina where I was surprised to find some fresh oranges. I am not sure if they were local but they were delicious. Needless to say, I couldn't resist and picked up a few among other things to bring home. They had some interesting items, especially a "Moonshine Jelly". I am not sure what one does with this, do you just use this as a regular preserve or jelly? I think a scoop of that for breakfast might lead to a very interesting day. I stayed away from it and went with some huckleberry preserves, black raspberry jams, and honey.



One of my favorite types of cakes are the semolina-based cakes that are popular in Mediterranean and Indian desserts. Fresh, firm, and ripe oranges give this cake its taste and aroma. I made a light honey based glaze infused with orange zest and freshly ground fennel seeds to pour on top of the cake. The orange by itself lends a very delicate flavor in this cake and a tiny bit of fennel seeds aids in giving a bit of flavor without being overpowering. Fennel seeds have a sweet anise or licorice like taste and are served after a meal in Indian cuisine to freshen the breath.



I've had many disasters with bundt pans in the past but after much trial and error and advice from an expert, this strategy always seems to work. A silicone bundt pan is great and you don't need to grease it too much before use. However, the real trick is to invert the cake while it is still hot in the pan onto a flat surface like a plate. The steam will push the cake away from the pan and the cooled cake will come off without breaking. This is one of those moments where I feel like saying "Voilà!" as the revelation occurs. Now, if only I could grow an orange plant here in Zone 7! 


orange and fennel semolina cake


ingredients


for the orange glaze syrup

1.5 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground fennel 
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange blossom honey or regular honey
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon cointreau or any other orange flavored liquor

for the cake

6 eggs
3 cups semolina
1 cup flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1.5 cups sugar
3 sticks chopped unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon fennel seeds


Bundt pan greasing mixture


1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


To prepare the glaze, combine all the ingredients except for the cointreau/liquor. Bring the contents to a gentle simmer in a thick bottomed pot and stir constantly until the volume reduces to half and the sauce begins to thicken and turn golden . This should take about 15 minutes. Once thickened, remove the sauce from the stove and add the cointreau. Allow to cool to room temperature before adding it to the cake. If the sauce gets too thick and hard to pour, then place the container in tub of warm water to loosen it up and then pour it on the cake.


Grease a bundt pan well with the greasing mixture (simply mix the three ingredients listed and use) using a basting brush.


Preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients - semolina, flour, baking soda, and fennel seeds. Keep this aside. In another large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric blender or whisk. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time till combined. Add the orange juice and the zest to the batter and beat it for another 20 seconds. Add one cup of the dry ingredients to the batter and beat until completely blended. Repeat this till the rest of the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the batter. Pour into the greased bundt pan and shake it very gently to make sure the batter spreads evenly into the pan. (Don't shake or tap it too much or the air bubbles that you whisked in will be lost.) Bake for about 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven till the surface is golden brown or until a skewer/knife comes out clean from the center of the cake. Once the cake is  baked, remove the bundt pan with the hot cake still in it from the oven. Immediately place a sheet of baking paper on top of the cake and invert the bundt pan with the baking paper onto a clean flat plate. Let the bundt pan with the cake rest and come to room temperature. When the cake is cooled completely, tap the top of the bundt pan gently and remove the pan. The cake will be left behind sitting on the paper. Pour the orange glaze on top of the cake and allow it to fall from the sides. This cake can be served at room temperature or even slightly warm with a cup of  hot coffee or tea.

semolina halva with rum soaked sultanas


It was terribly hard to try and get some time to post over the weekend mainly because I over booked myself. I did however have a wonderful time after finally getting to see and participate in the interactive murder mystery play "Shear Madness" at the Kennedy Center. Classes have finally begun and thesis stress is underway but I think I am finally getting close to picking a topic that is interesting.  


The onslaught from the rain is still pretty strong and the daily showers daily are reminiscent of the monsoon seasons of Bombay. There is nothing better than sitting in bed on a rainy weekend with a warm bowl of halva. I like halva of all sorts but one of my favorites is the simple semolina or durum halva with toasted nuts and sultanas. I gave this age old family recipe a bit of change by using sultanas that were soaked in dark rum for six months. I know six months is a long time for this but since I am one of those people that make a Christmas fruit cake every year and must have my dry fruit soaked in dark rum for at least year, I always have some on hand in my pantry. You can get away with sultanas soaked in dark rum for at least one night. The sultanas get plump with the rum and add a nice grown up feel to the dessert. If you don't want the rum skip it. You can substitute the sultanas with raisins. For the nuts, I used raw slivered almonds but walnuts would also be great in this dessert. This semolina halva is not only a fun dessert but also rich in fiber and nutrients and makes for an excellent dish at breakfast. 

semolina halva with rum soaked sultanas

yield: 4-6 servings 

ingredients

1 cup semolina 
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup sultanas soaked in 1/4 cup dark rum overnight
1/4 cup raw slivered almonds
1.5 tablespoons sugar
a pinch of saffron
2 cups water

1. Heat a nonstick skillet on a high flame and toast the semolina. Stir the semolina constantly to ensure an even light golden brown color but taking care to avoid burning the semolina. Add the butter to the pan and mix it into the semolina.
2. Reduce the flame to a low-medium flame and add the sultanas and almonds. Stir the mixture for about 2-3 minutes till the sultanas and almonds get lightly seared. 
3. Add the saffron, sugar and water along with the any liquid left behind from the sultanas. Cover with a lid and let it cook till all the water evaporates. Serve warm.