Food & Wine

Simple semolina sweet proves easy and delicious for holidays

Photo By: Gitika Baveja/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Gitika Baveja/Special To The Town Crier Cardamom adds a wintry savor to this Diwali sweet.

Like Thanksgiving in America, the festival of Diwali in India has always been a time to share joy, be thankful and show gratitude for what we have. Diwali, celebrated this week, commemorates the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness. It is not only a festival of lights, but also a symbolic start to the new year.

Diwali could almost be called “the festival of sweets,” as making and eating sweets are important parts of the tradition.

Semolina halva (also called “sooji” or “rava”), one of my childhood favorites, is easy to make. It is a popular confection across India, made as an offering to God on religious or auspicious occasions.

Semolina halva is often garnished with raisins and crushed nuts like almonds or pistachios to give it that extra rich taste.

Apart from its religious significance, it is delicious and nutritious and can be eaten at breakfast or as an after-meal dessert. The aroma that fills your kitchen when you make semolina halva might even travel to your neighbor’s home.

Semolina halva can be made in less than 20 minutes with only a few basic ingredients. It is sweetened with sugar, flavored with healthful nuts and infused with aromatic cardamom flavoring. You can use unsalted butter or ghee, but I prefer making a more nutritious version with oil.

This comforting dessert is an all-time classic Indian sweet.

Gitika Baveja is author of “Indian Flavors to Savor: The Easy Home-Cooked Way.” For more information and additional recipes, visit


Semolina Halva

• 1 cup coarse semolina

• 1 cup white cane sugar (adjust according to taste)

• 2 cups hot water

• 4-5 tablespoons canola or olive oil

• Few raisins and slivered almonds

• Few pistachios, chopped, unsalted (to garnish)

• 1-2 teaspoons cardamom powder (crush few green cardamoms seeds in coffee grinder)


Boil water in saucepan. Once it comes to boil, turn heat down to very low and keep on stove.

Pour oil in nonstick frying pan and set it over medium heat. When hot, add almonds. Stir and fry until they turn golden. Add semolina into same oil. Turn heat to medium low. Stir and sauté semolina until it turns a warm, golden color and starts to give off an aroma. Do not let it brown. Roasted semolina will have a grainy consistency.

Add raisins, sugar and cardamom powder and give a quick stir.

Add hot water and keep stirring constantly. Reduce heat, as mixture will bubble. Continue stirring until halva is semi-dry and fully cooked. It will absorb most of the water and separate from the sides of the pan.

Garnish with a few finely chopped pistachios and serve hot.

Variation: Add a dash of rose water or a few saffron threads for a different flavor.

Serves 2-4.


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