Shira – Cream of Wheat Pudding: Ultimate Comfort Food!

Shira cream of wheat pudding Soji halwa

I could have a tough day at work, or come in cold and shivering from shoveling snow. On days when things just don’t go right and you start wondering if the Universe is conspiring against you. I walk in the front door and get a whiff of roasting wheat, … Yaay! Its Shira for dessert! What problems?

M is not a sweets person, but after a tough day, she too instinctively thinks of shira. That warm cream of wheat halwa, also called kesar halwa, sooji halwa, or any of a myriad terms.

Just a whiff and our moods brighten. Like if a gentle breeze lifted the burdens off our shoulders, forgotten for ever. The Universe can take care of itself, I’ll settle in and savor the shira, one warm, nectarine morsel at a time.

Perhaps it reminds us of our childhood. For any religious festival, a puja, a birthday, an anniversary, or celebration of a good report card from school – my brother’s report card, that is – aiee made shira. Now it is hardwired in my DNA, a whiff of shira equals a celebration!

Few simple ingredients for the basic shira! But what an opportunity to experiment. Add just about anything, you are limited only by your creativity!

Most commonly added are sliced bananas and raisins. M occasionally makes shira with crushed pineapple from a can, which comes out delicious. This time we tried supplementing with bananas, mango pulp and bits of cashew! Aaaaaah! But then, even the most simple shira is heavenly!

Try it sometime! And please tell us of all your variations, so we can emulate.

Ingredients:

  • Rava (Sooji, a variant of cream of wheat, 1 cup)
  • Rava is coarsely ground wheat after the husk has been removed and the bran sifted out. It is not as finely ground as the wheat flour used to make chapattis or roti. Rava is a much coarser ground much like the texture of grains of sand. When looking for it in Indian grocery stores, rava is called Sooji, or wheat semolina. Couscous wheat is a much coarser ground and I don’t relish it for making shira.

  • tuup (home made clarified butter, 2 tbsp (low cal version); or use ghee or butter; Aiee, who likes her sons “well-fed”, adds twice as much tuup/ghee)
  • sugar, 3/4 cup
  • mango pulp, 2-3 tbsp; see what you like
  • cashew bits, 2 tbsp roasted on the side
  • cardamom, 20 cloves; powder seeds in mortar-pestle
  • kesar (saffron, we are currently using Iranian saffron gifted by a friend; splurge with 25+ strands)
  • hot water, 2 cups; on the side, keep a kettle of water ready at a boil.
  • milk, 2% low fat, 1/4 cup (Aiee uses whole milk … of course)


Method

  • On low heat, roast the rava with constant stirring
  • rava will lightly brown
  • add tuup (ghee), sugar and continue to roast
  • add mango pulp, cardamom, roasted cashew bits
  • once thoroughly mixed, add the hot water and milk
  • sprinkle and mix in kesar strands
  • a nice aroma fills the kitchen and taste buds start to salivate
  • stir vigorously while cooking over medium heat till it reaches a thick doughy consistency
  • Turn off heat and allow to cool;
  • When entertaining guests, aiee used to transfer doughy shira to a thali (deep dish), pat flat and cut in diamonds
  • Not done yet! We place a small silver bowl of shira and offer it to the divine at our family shrine. We say a small prayer in thanks for all the blessings bestowed on us. Then with much restraint we start to eat it slowly, relishing each tiny spoonful!

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Shira – Cream of Wheat Pudding: Ultimate Comfort Food!

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