Wedding Soji (Semolina Halwa,Halava) is a rich, creamy, pudding like desert often served at traditional Indian weddings in South Africa (at least it was when I was growing up). It is made from semolina or tasty wheat fried in sweetly spiced butter or ghee then simmered in cream. This celebratory version is a more decadent version of Amma‘s soji recipe. It is served with fresh cream and topped with slivered almonds, coconut or pistachios. Soji is known for it’s thick sticky texture and may not be very likeable to everyone’s taste buds, my husband and son think it tastes like porridge, but it is simply delicious to me. No doubt because of the nostalgia associated with it. As kids, there was always the anticipation of receiving wedding soji, only if you ate all your biryani and dahl. It is comparable with other childhood favorites vermicelli and sweet rice. It can also be cooked dry, resembling Phutu. Like the name of this soji recipe suggests, is a celebratory one, that spares nothing!
Not for the faint hearted, it is buttery like shortbread. Variations to this soji recipe includes the use of condensed milk, saffron for a yellow colour and sometimes contains eggs. The latter can be found in South African Indian delights ,their Soji deluxe, is a baked version of the dish. My version of wedding soji is made on the stove stop. This is a very decadent version of soji, I recommend one scoop per serving. This recipe yields 6 large ice cream scoops.
How To Make A Rich South African Wedding Soji
I first fry the cinnamon and cardamom in butter to release their flavour and aroma. The secret to making the best wedding soji is to slow roast the semolina or tasty wheat on slow heat with enough butter to cover the grains.
This prevents the grains from burning or being uncooked. Once the cream is added this will gently steam the grains to form a soft thick mixture.
Allow the soji to rest a few minutes before dishing into serving bowls.
For this recipe I have used the following ingredients; semolina, butter, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, condensed milk instead of sugar, fresh cream and salt. The type of Semolina used is dark or whole wheat, I sometimes make porridge for my son with this. It is available in most large supermarkets or organic food stores. It has a brownish colour, this contributes the beautiful brown colour of this soji.
I used saffron with the intention of having s slight yellow tinge, but this did not work because of the wholewheat semolina. To activate the saffron, soak in a tablespoon of cream, this will activate the colour. Next step is to fry the semolina on low heat. Stir every few minutes to avoid the grains burning. This should be done for 20 minutes.
Add the saffron cream and remaining cream and condensed milk. Mix until a uniform mixture forms. Close lid and allow to steam on low heat for 10 minutes.
Remove from stove and allow to rest before serving.
Garnish with slivered almonds and pistachios. Top with cream or whipped cream. Enjoy a taste of old Durban weddings.
Soji with Cream And Almonds
Soji can be served with liquid or whipped cream. It pairs well with cream because of soji’s otherwise dry texture. I thought that the less attractive appearance of soji spooned onto a plate when served might have been a deterrent for some dinner guests who have disliked it, I have since scooped soji with an ice cream scoop to serve and the reactions have definitely improved.
To plate, place cream in a shallow dish then scoop a ball of soji on top. Inspired by Soji Balls, this makes for an attractive serving suggestion. Garnish with slivered almonds or nuts of choice.
Soji Recipe Variations
Like most Indian recipes in South Africa they differ from region to region as much as they do in individual families. When I was growing up, recipes were often dictated by the ingredients available, e.g the use of margarine instead of butter and turmeric or food coloring to make the soji yellow. Listed below are a few variations to Soji recipes to suit all contemporary dietary requirements.
Wedding Soji with Condensed Milk
This recipe uses condensed milk instead of sugar. It adds sweetness and a thicker texture to the soji than one made with just sugar and cream. It also contributes the beautiful brown colour of this wedding soji.
Soji With Raisins or Walnuts.
The raisin version in Jack Santa Maria’s Indian Sweet Cookery contains raisins and has a fiery note to it in the use of cloves. It is also fragrant from the use of sweet spices cardamon and cinnamon and adds rose water. It is garnished with almonds and pistachios.
Gluten Free Soji
My sister is fond of making gluten-free soji using ground almonds.
Lactose free Soji
For a lactose free version use coconut milk.
A Vegan alternative is to use coconut oil to fry the grains and use coconut cream and coconut or almond milk instead of dairy products.