Even when we were younger; after every meal there was always something sweet that followed. Being Maharashtrian most desserts and sweet during our festivals were very traditional. These included modaks; rice dumplings filled with jaggery syrup & coconut, or shirkhand; a yoghurt based dessert. But my favourite has always been Sheera. It’s a semolina pudding cooked with cardamom, saffron, raisins & pistachio. Usually cooked when there is a religious ceremony, weddings or puja at home, its eaten warm on its own. You could serve it with some ice cream or crème fraiche for that slight tangy taste.
I remember as kids we wait eagerly for all the rituals to be done with so we could sample the sheera and go for seconds or even a third helping whilst everyone was busy with the wedding or rituals. The flavours in this pudding are very nutty; the key is to roast the semolina on a very slow fire until its golden brown which does take a while. You need to keep a good eye and stir continuously to make sure it doesn’t burn or get too brown at any stage.
I absolutely adored the way my mother cooked sheera at home even if it was just for the family. I would fill a bowl and eat it with a cup of tea in tow. Perfect! But I’m sure she will agree too that one of the main reasons I have such a fondness for this dish is because I was always guaranteed a bowl of steaming hot sheera when I visited my grandmother as a young girl. I have yet to taste a better made sheera! She would serve it to us with home made green mango pickle. Not many people eat it like that, but there is really nothing better than the combination of sweet & spicy flavours together.
There are different versions of this all over the country and different names too. In all its forms Sooji ka Halwa, Rava Kesari or Sheera it’s delicious and well worth a go.
A few things about the recipe; have added the sugar based on how sweet I prefer it but feel free to reduce or increase the quantities. A lot of time this pudding is made just with water but if want it to be rich then whole milk would work really well.
In a heavy bottom sauce pan heat 3 tbsp of the ghee or butter. Add the semolina and roast on a slow fire for 20-25 minutes until it goes golden brown in colour stirring continuously. You will know when it starts to change colour as it will leave a very nutty & distinct smell
Add the sugar and salt giving it a mix for a couple of minutes. Add the cardamom powder along with the saffron. Mix well
At this stage start to add the water or milk a little at a time, stirring constantly making sure that there are no lumps; turn the heat to low and cover the pan to let the steam work through it for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it cool slightly
In a frying pan add the remaining ghee and tip in the raisin and chopped pistachios. Fry for a couple of minute until the raisins start to plump up. Add it to the semolina pudding and stir. The pudding should be fluffy, light and steaming hot. Perfect with pickle.