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
ground cardamom (grind the seeds from fresh green cardamom if available)
cherries pitted and halved (or 1/4 cup of dried cherries)
almonds toasted and chopped roughly plus a few extra toasted almonds for garnish
Measure all your ingredients first--you won't be able to multi-task when you are making the dish!
In a small pot add water and sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves.
Turn off the heat and set aside.
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!)
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.