There are only a handful of South Asian sweets that I like: Almond Burfi, Gulab Janum and Ras Malai being the main three, but I also have a fondness for Suji ka halva perhaps because it reminds me of my childhood.
Suji (Sooji) ka Halva (Halwa) also known as Rava Kesari is a South Asian (Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi) Semolina sweet pudding. It is often enjoyed for breakfast with puris, a light deep fried pastry or served as a dessert at ceremonies.
Traditionally halvas are not overly sweet. Neither are they much to look at: a plain unappealing sandy grain colour as well as texture, which makes them a bit of an acquired taste. But this is what is great about them. Halvas can be versatile like a plain cake base, polenta, couscous, even quinoa where you add other flavours to enhance its appeal. For special occasions, my mother would often add dried fruits to the mix: green raisins, cherries, chopped pineapple and mango pieces, as well as chocolate chips, chopped nuts, namely almonds, pistachios and cashews. For extra special occasions she’d add flavoured essence and coat them with edible silver leaf. My mother continues to make a version with vegetables, namely Gajjar (carrot) halva.
I had originally thought about making a 'Chocolate and orange halva', as I always seem to have oranges rolling about in the fruit bowl, then I remembered this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge. We Should Cocoa, as the title suggests is to create something with cocoa or chocolate, but it is much more than just chocolate challenge. Each month the host, either Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog or Chele at Chocolate Teapot will name an additional ingredient that has to be incorporated into the recipe. This month Chele has chosen lime. I like this combination, as I was instantly reminded of a sweet from my childhood – 'Chocolate Limes'. Do you remember chocolate – limes?! You suck on the hard pearly green exterior. At first it pleasantly zings in your mouth, then at some point the shell will crack gently and your mouth is filled with oozy soft chocolate. Mmmm. Its been a while since I‘ve had them.
Well no chocolate lime sweets here, instead a slice of 'Chocolate Lime Halva'. For me this was a lovely way to combine two sweets from my childhood. The chocolate lime halva is like soft fudge. My husband described it simply as 'Chocolate Semolina'. Its good warm and cold. And not that you will notice a difference to the flavour, this halva is also vegan.
This recipe makes a huge amount, imagine two bricks. So I knocked on my Malaysian neighbours doors (flat downstairs) and gave them half, they happily accepted. I was pleased. The recipe below can easily be halved.
These 'Chocolate and lime halva' bites are rather moist on their own, but feel free to serve them with a little drizzling of golden syrup or maple syrup.
Chocolate and Lime Halva
Serves a very large crowd
Ingredients400g/2 cups granulated sugar
1 ¾ pints or 4 ½ cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
250ml/1 cup olive oil
500g/3 cups semolina
Handful of pecans, chopped, keep 4 – 6 back for topping if you wish
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
Juice and zest of 1 lime*
4 – 6 tablespoons golden syrup
MethodDissolve the sugar in water over gentle heat.
Add cinnamon sticks, bring to a boil then turn the heat down and simmer gently 5 minutes.
Cool and remove cinnamon sticks.
Heat oil in a wide pan and when hot stir in semolina. Turn the heat down and cook the semolina, stirring occasionally until lightly golden. Add the cocoa powder and pecans and cook a minute.
Then very carefully stir in sugar-cinnamon syrup and gently bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, it will thicken up and be hard to stir, but continue stirring as you don't want lumpy halva. When thick and smooth, remove from heat and stir in golden syrup and lime juice until well combined.
Cool slightly and pour the soft halva into a lightly greased (or non-stick) Swiss roll pan; two 2lb baking loaves. I used my biscotti tin. Allow to cool before turning out and sprinkling with fresh lime zest and topping with additional pecans. Slice and serve. Recipe adapted from International Vegetarian Union (IVU).
*If your not keen on lime, then you can easily substitute the lime with orange. After all chocolate and orange is another wonderful combination.