Semolina Desserts in Indian Cuisine

India is most commonly renowned for its curries and spices, however the cuisine also offers a choice of delicious sweets and desserts.

Although recipes vary throughout the country, the main ingredients used for making desserts remain fairly similar. Many dishes are dairy-based, made using either coconut milk or yoghurt. Some examples of these include kulfi (a type of ice cream) or shrikhand, a Gujarati dish made with strained yoghurt and fruit pulp. Rice also features highly, whether in the northern speciality kheer (a rice pudding flavoured with cardamom, dried fruit and nuts) or narali bhat (a Maharastrian sweet rice and coconut dish).

A less commonly used ingredient, but just as versatile, is semolina. Semolina itself is the hard grains that remain when durum wheat is milled to make flour. Semolina is a good source of protein, B-complex vitamins, and selenium, which is used by the body as an antioxidant. It is also naturally low in fat – although if you’re using it in a dessert, that benefit won’t last long!

Rava Ladoo
In the popular southern dish Rava Ladoo, semolina is ground to a coarse powder, then mixed with roasted cashews, raisins, sugar and desiccated coconut. The mixture is held together with ghee, and shaped into bite-sized balls. These are then ready to eat and can stay fresh for a long time.

Rava Kesari is a sweet, vibrant orange dish thanks to the addition of saffron. Other ingredients include sugar, chopped cashew nuts, crushed cardamom pods (or cardamom powder) and ghee. The mixture is boiled, then simmered and stirred until thick. It is served either warm or hot.

Sooji Cake is a semolina based sponge cake, with the addition of desiccated coconut and flavoured with cardamom powder. Dried fruits or the zest of citrus fruit can also be added, if desired.

Shankarpali is a popular sweet snack in Maharashtra. A sweet dough is made from semolina, maida flour, milk, sugar and ghee. The dough is cut into diamond shapes and fried in ghee or butter. It has a long shelf life, and is sold ready-made in shops throughout the year; during Diwali, however, it is made in homes from scratch.

Although halva is traditionally a Middle Eastern delicacy, it was brought to India by traders and travellers, after which new variations began to form. It can either be nut-butter based (for example, tahini or sunflower seed butter), or flour-based, using a grain such as semolina.

Semolina (sooji halva) is one of the most popular types of halva in India, as well as wheat (aate ka halva) moong dal ka halva (mung bean) and kaju halva (chickpeas). The semolina is combined with ghee and sugar to form a dense, gelatinous sweet. The states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are particularly famous for their halva.

If you would like to learn more about the variety of Indian sweets, then there a selection of top Indian restaurants in London serving quality desserts on their menus. Expertly trained regional chefs serve a variety of delicacies, as well as modern and inventive adaptations of authentic dishes. So don’t overlook dessert next time you go out for Indian food in London, and see if semolina makes an appearance.