Shira is a traditional Maharashtrian or Marathi delicacy. And it is also totally Indian. Almost every state has their version of shira or sooji halwa. And there are slight variations in the way it is made. But ultimately, it is a simple yet indulgent Indian dessert that is ready in less than 30 minutes using ordinary pantry ingredients.
Halwa-Puri is a favorite combination in the North or Hindi speaking regions of India. I was often provided this lunch on school picnics or special occasions. Probably because it has a good shelf life and does not spoil in the sun. another occasion when the Sooji Halwa or Shira is a must is the satyanarayan pooja. This is a common Hindu ritual or prayer performed for the general well being of the home and family.
Like a pound cake, the authentic recipe for Shira is simple. Use one measure of all ingredients! Add a chopped banana or two and any nuts you may have on hand, add in some crushed cardamom and that’s all. Then every family may have their own touch, like adding saffron, or maybe nutmeg.
As life becomes more fast paced, it seems we have also lost the ability to enjoy a leisurely bowl of this sweet treat. Frankly, even my palate has changed and so has my capacity to consume sweets. So shira, that simplest of Maharashtrian desserts is made hardly once or twice a year. And the day we make it is cause enough to celebrate.
Cashews, raisins and almonds are most commonly added to this dish. I used up some dried figs and apricots that I found tucked away in the back of my freezer. The figs and apricots gave this a different flavor and crunch. You can almost see the fig seeds in the photos!
This is not a low calorie recipe by any means. If you do not have access to ghee, you can easily make your own, or order it online. Otherwise, just use plain unsalted sweet cream butter. Let the butter melt before adding the semolina. It won’t taste quite the same though.
Sooji Halwa/ Badami Shira/ Fig and Almond Semolina Pudding Recipe
- 1 cup roasted rava/ sooji/ semolina
- ¾ cup ghee
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup water
- 15 almonds
- 6 apricots
- 6 dried figs
- 12 raisins
- ½ tsp cardamom powder
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Add ½ tsp ghee to a kadai or wok. Roast the almonds in ghee and set aside.
- Add figs and apricots and roast lightly until they plump up. Set aside.
- Chop/ snip the nuts and dried fruit and set aside.
- Add the rest of the ghee to the wok or kadai and let it melt.
- Add the Rava or semolina and roast on very low heat until light brown. Keep stirring continuously and keep the heat low to avoid burning.
- Mix the milk and water.
- Have the sugar ready in a bowl.
- Once semolina is roasted well, add the water/ milk mixture gradually while stirring with one hand to ensure there are no lumps.
- Add the sugar and nuts/ fruits.
- Cover with lid and let it steam for a few minutes on low heat.
- Remove lid and stir well to mix. The semolina should have fluffed up and absorbed all the liquid. And ghee will be visible at the sides. The mixture should look glossy.
- Add the ground cardamom and mix in.
- Switch off heat and cover with lid.
- Serve after 10 minutes.
- Shira or Sooji Halwa is ready to eat.
Are you ready to dive in? This is actually an easy recipe once you get the technique right. Definitely easier than baking. Hope you try this and enjoy this sweet treat with your family.