Mohonbhog (Bengali style Semolina Halwa)

2:53 AM

I always seem to act on inspiration. There are some days when I don’t feel like doing anything and drag myself through the daily chores and there are days when I feel like a feather and almost glide on my feet to run the errands. Though am not sure what inspires me but certainly they are not very big. A bunch of bright yellow sunflowers or a fresh whip of moist summer breeze is enough to get back my spirit. Some days I feel so inspired that I finish a whole lot of work which even  puzzles me.

Take for instance today. I was literally bogged up and was tired of doing a lot of work. But after I fed the baby and put him to bed for his afternoon nap don’t know what got me and I wanted to make something special for Eid. Suddenly remembered all those time when as a student we used to visit a friend’s place and tucked in all those gorgeous sheer khurma and pulao her mother used to make. Even last year, a dear friend of ours sent us the yummiest sewai (vermicelli) and biriyani. I wanted to make something rich that will make this day special. Immediate desire was to make sheer khurma but dint have vermicelli in stock. so after a lot of deliberation I decided upon Mohonbhog, a Delicious and rich semolina halwa with nuts and raisins. A taste from childhood , a dish made iconic by Tagore. He has mentioned about this ghee soaked, dry fruits laden semolina based dessert in many of his books. And the combo that he talked about is Luchi-Mohonbhog, a true Bengali delicacy of fried flatbread and semolina halwa.
This dessert is primarily prepared as an offering to Lord Krishna or Mohan as he is fondly called. Thus it got its name. When we were kids we loved to savour this after a scrumptious meal. Dida used to always make it with our favourite breakfast of luchi-alur charchari. we preferred to have this wrapped in a luchi and biting into this sinfully good treat was a delight. Later when I grew up and went to other people’s home from different regions I discovered that this is a very popular dessert that almost everyone cook in their home. As Shakespeare once said "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Whether you call it kesaribhat or sheera or mohonbhog or suji ka halwa, this simple delight never fails to please us.
I cook it in a different way than my Mom. She fries the semolina in ghee till brown and then adds the liquid and sugar. But I prefer to soak dry roasted semolina for sometime to make it soft and to give the dessert a melting in the mouth texture. Also traditionally this is cooked in lots of ghee. Generally ½ cup ghee is used to cook 1 cup semolina. I could not make myself to do that and used ¼ cup instead. Here is how I did it.

7-8 servings
Semolina: 1 cup (I used the finer variety)
Milk: 3 cups
Sugar: ¾ cup
Milkmaid: 3 tbsp (optional. If you are not using this increase the suagr quantity by 3-4 tbsp)
White oil: 3 tbsp (I used Canola oil)
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Cashews and almonds: handful
Raisins: 2 tbsp
Bay leaf: 1
Clove: 2
Green cardamom: 3-4
Chopped pista and almonds to garnish
On very low flame dry roast the semolina till couple of shades darker. Approx. 7-8 mnts. (This is very good for storing semolina. Dry roasting will keep the ants and insects at bay.)
Soak the raisins in water and dry roast the nuts till golden. Chop it coarsely.
Take this out in a big bowl and add the milk. Mix well and let it soak for at-least 30 minutes.(if you have pre roasted semolina then warm the milk. The idea here is to fasten the soaking process.)
Once the semolina is soft and lump free, heat the oil and ghee in a non-stick pan. Lightly crush the cloves and bay leaf and add to the hot oil. Cook for a few seconds and then add the sugar and 2 tbsp water.
Keep stirring this and when the sugar almost melts add the soaked suji. If there is any liquid it will evaporate during cooking. On low flame keep on stirring this. In a minute or two the texture and colour would start to change.
Pour in the milkmaid, dry fruits and raisins. Stir and mix well. Check if the semolina is done or add more milk.
Cook for 3-4 more minutes. Finally sprinkle cardamom powder, mix and serve warm or at room temperature.
A Homemaker’s Notes:
This does not taste as good when cold. So make fresh batches for immediate consumption.
If you want to store, use the original ratio of ½ cup oil for 1-cup semolina. The oil will coat the semolina grains and will keep it moist.
Store in covered container.
You can also add chopped anjeer or dried fig to this.
For extra rich Mohonbhog add ¼ cup grated khoya along with the milkmaid.

Diwali Special Sending this to Tickling Palates diwali sweets and savouries.

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