post

Shira – Cream of Wheat Pudding: Ultimate Comfort Food

Shira cream of wheat pudding Soji halwa Arun Shanbhag

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. And please tell us 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)

Shira Cream of Wheat Pudding - Soji halwa
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!

Shira Cream of Wheat Pudding - Soji halwa

Other Indian Desserts:

Comments

  1. Dear Arun,

    Chanced to step on ur site by accident and not call it “serendipity” πŸ™‚

    Excellent web site…

    I had written a blog on Ghee and its benefits sometime ago..mentioning it here for reference (if anyone needs it πŸ™‚ )

    http://ayurvedahelps.blogspot.com/2008/05/rationale-behind-of-use-of-ghee.html

  2. I am so going to make some sooji ka halwa today. Havent made that in years!!!! Thanks Arun

  3. Very interesting recipe!: Here is a good article on how to make the best chocolate cream of wheat: http://www.ehow,com/how_5276609_make-cream-wheat.html

  4. yes, dont add sugar, maybe a couple tbsp honey or little bit jaggery, (makes it sweet and nutritious at the same time)… cream of wheat, ghee and milk are all things are good for growing babies, so this is good πŸ™‚

    • O, THank you Rachna.
      I was just talking to M last night about something NOT as sweet. Meera definitely likes the Shira, but we don’t want to get her too many sweet things.

      Good idea with the jaggery and honey! Yes! and Ghee!!!

  5. Hey Arun, i make a liquidy sheera with milk for my son’s bfast everyday…. and he loves it… he is going to be three and still wants it for his bfast!!

    • That is interesting; we were trying to figure out how best to get some cream of wheat for Meera. We felt the shira is too sweet and the Upma as too spicy.

      I think we need to revisit this and perhaps make a shira – but not as sweet.

      Thanks for the tip!

  6. Hari Krisna Arun ‘My name is All`an I’m from NewZealand. I first tried your recipe at our Hari Krisna Temple ‘New Varsana Auckland, about 30 years ago, so its pretty Famous ha.I thought Id be a little adventurous while cooking for family and added crystallized ginger,unsalted freshly roasted cashew nuts and ground ginger powder. As I’m very passionate about all the ingredients I use I never us a measured amount I think you must go too your own taste Do try my idea My friends loved it Bonn appetite

    • THank you Allan for sharing your tips;
      I love ginger, particularly in tea and I can see how it can add to the shira!

      Absolutely will try it out the next time we make Shira!

      Best Wishes for the Gudi Padva to you!
      Hare Krishna!

  7. Hey we call it Ksheera in our house and our community and i do add pineapple and make it and it is called “pineapple pudding”.

    never though of adding mango..will give it a try in summer πŸ™‚

    • Sushma:

      this dish has deep roots in all the communities! And its amazing how different folks call it different names! Should have compiled a listing of the different terms used.

      Yeah, I love he pineapple supplement! The bestest! Give mango a try and let me know how it works for you!

      Best

  8. Frank
    It is fabulous to hear from you after all these years!
    Please do send me mail at the name of this blog@ gmail

    Yes, Those good old Oak Park Days when we ONLY had to worry about Ceasar! :-))

    Devon Ave is the best. I don’t think there is anything comparable anywhere else in the US – I know, I have tried.

    What are you upto? Please let us know.
    Best Wishes
    Arun

Trackbacks

  1. […] with laborers sipping their chai or kaapi. Early in the morning they serve puri bhaji, phovu, shira and upma. By 8:30 am they’ll start serving buns and around 10:30 dosas are spread. Last […]

  2. […] with laborers sipping their chai or kaapi. Early in the morning they serve puri bhaji, phovu, shira and upma. By 8:30 am they’ll start serving buns and around 10:30 dosas are spread. Last […]

  3. […] Shira – Cream of Wheat Pudding […]

  4. […] Shira – Cream of Wheat Pudding […]

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