Authentic Indian Recipes: Sweet Halva & Savory Upma (with Semolina)

Semolina is a healthy way to get your carb fix and if you make it this way, your tongue will thank you too, be it for the savory breakfast or the sweet post-dinner dessert. 

Halva and upma are two very different dishes in the Indian cuisine. Halva is a sweet, ghee-laden North-Indian dessert, often used as offerings to the Gods in various rituals and cooked during various Hindu festivals as well. Upma on the other hand is a savory South-Indian breakfast dish, with the added healthiness of chopped veggies in it, and can be cooked in healthier oils like olive and coconut as well. The key ingredient in both is semolina, coarsely ground durum wheat.

To those who tolerate gluten well, semolina becomes yet another source of healthy carbohydrates and makes a frequent appearance in pasta as well. Since semolina is coarser than wheat, it has the added advantage of having more fiber than wheat and all-purpose flour (refined wheat flour). Semolina also is a good source of protein, B-vitamins, selenium and iron – so it makes sense to add a dish or two made from semolina in your repertoire of healthy dishes.

Winter Heartiness: Semolina Halva

½ cup ghee (clarified butter)

1 cup semolina

4 cups water

1 cup sugar

½ cup assorted nuts and raisins

In a heavy-bottomed wok or pan, heat the ghee till fragrant. Gently add the semolina to the ghee and turn the heat on low. Roast the semolina for 10-15 minutes, stirring every now and then till it turns pinkish brown. Gently add the water, stirring vigorously to ensure no lumps. Once all the water has been added, add in the sugar and cook on low heat for another 5-10 minutes. The watery concoction will slowly thicken into a gooey paste (pudding-like consistency), and will start bubbling on the surface as well, so cover and keep protected from the splatters. Add in your choice of chopped nuts, raisins or even dry, grated coconut and give it a good stir so that it evenly distributes. Serve warm after a good meal to make those winter nights even heartier.

Summer Lightness: Semolina Upma

4 tbsp olive or coconut oil

1 cup semolina

1 tsp each fenugreek seeds, black gram and split chickpea lentils (optional)

½ tsp mustard seeds

15-20 curry leaves

1 cup chopped veggies (onions, snap peas, shelled peas, carrots, beets, potatoes, peppers)

3 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon juice (optional)

In a pot or pan, add 2 tbsp of oil and heat till fragrant. Add in the semolina and roast for 10-15 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently, till the semolina changes color to an even pinkish brown. Empty out the semolina into another bowl and wipe the pan with a clean cloth. Add the remaining 2 tbsp oil and then add in the curry leaves. Once the sputtering has stopped, add in mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, the black gram and the split chickpea lentils. Now add the veggies – fry the onions till translucent first and then add in the other veggies – cooking everything for 5 minutes till they have softened a bit. Now add the water as well as the salt and pepper to taste and let the veggies simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Finally, add in the roasted semolina and simmer on low heat, stirring every now and then till the mixture thickens into an oatmeal or grit-like consistency. Serve hot with chutney and a dash of lemon juice.

We hope you enjoy these recipes. Do let us have your suggestions or feedback about them, in the comments section below. As the French say, Bon Appétit, and as the Indians say, Namaste!

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