Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sanza or Semolina Hulva with Raisins

The Festival of Lights dawns to a charcoal gray sky. I draw rangoli on the front steps. Rain splatters wash away the delicate imprints. In spite of the dismal weather I feel joyous. Today is the beginning of a new year. An auspicious aura fills the soul. I gather materials to make an offering. A sweet of course.

It is to be an easy sweet. Something to please the gods and us. Sanza, as I have always called it, is a one-two-three dessert that comes together in a jiffy. You may know it as sheera, or semolina or sujji hulva or sweet upma. Made of rava or fine semolina, roasted in ghee and cooked in milk, sanza is usually served at puja times, ceremonious occasions or just because. In the U.S. you could use cream of wheat in a pinch. Bu you will find it is worth the effort if you could locate authentic Indian rava. 

As I roast rava, a delicious aroma envelopes the kitchen. Memories course through me. The tiny stove in my grandma's kitchen. My Mum doling out portions to us at the dinner table. Satyanarayan pujas where we use our fingers to eat sanza in bowls made out of leaves. There must a correlation between sanza and my trove of recollections!!!

Serves 2

1/4 cup Rava, Semolina or Cream of Wheat
1 tablespoon Ghee
1/2 cup whole or 2% Milk
1/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Raisins 
A pinch of Saffron

Heat ghee in a small wok or pan.

Add rava to hot ghee and stir to mix. Set the flame low. Keep stirring every few minutes. As the rava roasts it will emit a nutty aroma. Keep stirring till rava changes color from white to a light, toasty brown. Don't walk away as the rava browns really fast when hot. You do not want it to turn a dark brown.

Add milk, sugar,  raisins and saffron to rava. The milk will bubble violently when added. Pour the milk slowly so you will not get splattered on. Stir vigorously till mixed well. Cook rava on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.

The rava should be dry and crumbly.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes.

Serve this dessert warm. 

A small helping is first offered to the gods. The New Year has started well. A not too elaborate sweet heralds in good times. Candles are lit, rangoli is once again laid out, a marigold toran is hung outside the front door. Dessert is ready. All that is missing are the firecrackers that signal the beginning of Divali. As always Shauna sings the Diwali song. Far from India I remember and reconfigure a festival dear to my heart.