Make Ahead

Cherry Halwa

June 25, 2010
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

Sweets made with various combinations of semolina, sugar and spices can be found across India, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran. The Indian version, fragrant with cardamom, nuts and raisins, was always a favorite of mine growing up. Versions made richer with milk and ghee (clarified butter) in place of water and oil are prepared to take to the temple as an offering to the gods.
Here I have created a version using cherries in place of raisins to make a delicious seasonal dish for June. Dried cherries can be used when fresh cherries are not available. To make sure the dish is sweet and not tart, use the sweet dark red cherries. For those who like their dessert more sweet, the sugar can be increased to equal or even double the amount of semolina. Pistachios can be added or substituted for toasted almonds. - CafeAnna

Test Kitchen Notes

Is it possible to feel nostalgic when tasting something that you had never tried before? Perhaps it was the warm, cozy, comforting deliciousness of CafeAnna's Cherry Halwa that overlapped with memories from some other place and time. At the stove, the nutty fragrance of the toasting semolina releases almost instantly, and a heady dose of cardamom will envelop you completely (it is certainly no chore to breathe it all in while you diligently stir). In the bowl, plump fresh cherries add nice juicy fruity bites, and some whole milk stirred in is a last perfect luscious touch. CafeAnna's halwa is light, spoonable, and sure to be as lovely for breakfast as it is for dessert any day of the year. - Jennifer Ann —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (grind the seeds from fresh green cardamom if available)
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 8-10 cherries pitted and halved (or 1/4 cup of dried cherries)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons almonds toasted and chopped roughly plus a few extra toasted almonds for garnish
  • 1/2 cup milk or condensed milk (optional)
  1. Measure all your ingredients first--you won't be able to multi-task when you are making the dish!
  2. In a small pot add water and sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  3. In a flat bottomed skillet add oil and heat on medium. Add the bay leaf and semolina. Keep stirring the semolina to brown it slowly without burning. After about10 minutes, add the cardamom to the semolina Keep stirring for another 8 to 10 minutes until the semolina turns a golden brown color. (This requires patience…it will brown, just give it some time!)
  4. Once the semolina has browed, keep stirring and slowly add the sugar water syrup into the semolina. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer and stir continuously until all the liquid is absorbed. Fold in the cherries and chopped almonds (leave a few whole almonds for garnish). Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with a few almonds. Top with warm milk for a richer taste (fit for the gods!) The halwa is delicious served hot or cold.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • theicp
  • AntoniaJames
  • aargersi
  • yummyehw

14 Reviews

yummyehw July 28, 2010
Oh, I'm so excited to have a cherry dessert to try. Semolina--yum! Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Delish July 1, 2010
Although I'm a big fan of raisins, I think the cherries make this dish really special. In addition to adding their summery sweet and tart flavor, they add color and pizazz.
theicp June 30, 2010
Wow - what a great idea. Would LOVE to try this!
CafeAnna July 1, 2010
Thanks for saying. I hope you do try it--it is a pretty quick and satisfying dessert for nonbakers like me!
culinarycallie June 28, 2010
The subtle mix of sweet and earthy is enticing. The cherries provide a juicy, refreshing burst of flavor. Delicious.
CafeAnna June 28, 2010
Thanks for your addition of the word "earthy." I like it!
AntoniaJames June 28, 2010
Love the cherries + bay + cardomom combination in a sweet! My cherry jam of choice the past few years has included bay . . . .will have to add some cardamom to a batch this year. Yummmm! ;o)
CafeAnna June 28, 2010
That sounds like a great jam. Hope you post your version with cardamom and let us know how it turned out!
CafeAnna June 28, 2010
I hope you add it to your summer cooking! Let me know how it works out with your dishes.
aargersi June 28, 2010
I love these flavors - is it eaten sort of like a pudding?
CafeAnna June 28, 2010
I hope you try it--the spice and fruit combination is nice. Yes, it is like a pudding (even called Indian style pudding sometimes!) If you add the milk/condensed milk it makes it a more fluid type of pudding texture. Let me know if you try making it.
I saw your breakfast polenta--this is definitely the recipe I am going to make to start my experiments with polenta! Thanks!
ChezSharon June 28, 2010
This is delicious! Very fresh tasting. The American palate may find it not sweet enough, especially if you use milk or soy milk, not condensed milk.
CafeAnna June 28, 2010
Thanks, that's probably true! When my sweet tooth needs a little more, I either increase the amount of sugar or drizzle maple syrup over it.
grilljen June 28, 2010
This looks delicious! Can't wait to try this....a great summer desert.