For Vasant Panchami (spring festival) yesterday, I made this saffron pineapple halwa. Describable as velvety, rich and melt in the mouth, this halwa is quite different from the regular sooji(semolina) halwa. The semolina is very lightly roasted in ghee,it isn’t very sweet and has a lovely flavor of fresh pineapple in every bite.
To enhance the color and flavor, I used ground saffron which gave this halwa an exciting exotic flair and its golden color. Halwa in north indian homes is considered the quickest dessert ever. My grandmother made halwa almost everyday to offer as prashad. Usually made with semolina, chickpea flour or with whole wheat flour, a bowl of warm halwa is deemed auspicious enough to offer to deity, as a means of celebration or a perfect way to satisfying sweet cravings.
This pineapple halwa recipe is one of my most loved. Its not as simple as folding some pineapple bits at the end when halwa finishes cooking. I infuse the intense pineapple flavor by flavoring the sugar syrup by cooking fruit in it first. Then, while the semolina cooks in the syrup, I add pineapple and infuse it further. As the semolina slowly absorbs the syrup, the pineapple chunks get a bit softer and release their juices.
A couple things to be kept in mind when making Pineapple Halwa.
- Try and use fine semolina in this recipe. It makes a huge difference in the texture and consistency.
- Avoid using canned pineapple. Go for firm (not overripe) pineapple. If the pineapple is too ripe, it will fall apart when you cook it. It is best to use little tangy, not overly sweet fresh pineapple.
- Cooking Pot, Kadhai/Wide Pan
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1.25 cup water
- 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks (small squares)
- 10 saffron strands
- 1 tbsp warm milk
- 1/3 cup melted ghee, divided
- 1/2 cup fine semolina
- 2 tbsp raw whole cashews
- 2 tbsp raw pistachios plus more for garnish
- Add the sugar and water to a medium pot and set on the stove to boil.There is no need to stir. Just when all the sugar has melted. no need to cook it further, add the pineapple chunks to hot syrup and switch off the stove. Let sit for 10-12 minutes
- In the meantime, add the saffron strands to a mortar, add a pinch of sugar and grind to a fine powder. Add warm milk and mix. Let stand to infuse.
- Set a heavy kadhai/wide pan on low medium stove, add 1 tbsp of ghee and saute the nuts for a minutes stirring continously. Brown the nuts a little taking care that they dont burn. Take out in a bowl.
- Add another tablespoon of ghee to the kadhai and add the semolina. On low medium stove, toast the semolina in ghee for 3-5 minutes until the grains appear to be swelled but do not change color. Keep stirring continously using a cooking spoon and dont let the color of semolina change.
- Once toasted, reduce the flame to low. Grab a spatula in one hand and add the sugar syrup along with pinapple to the semolina with other. There will be a bit of splutter so be careful. Gently but quicky start mixing the semolina with the syrup using the spatula. It will swell and the halwa will start to thicken in no time. This happens very quickly and spatula is the right tool to stir with. Dont let any lump form and keep stirring continously. The halwa might feel a bit sticky but its okay.
- Once all the syrup is absorbed, add the remaining 1/4 cup ghee to the kadhai and keep mixing and stirring to combine well. Slowly ghee will be absorbed (about 2-3 minutes) in the halwa and you will see its no more sticky rather shiny and grainy.
- Add the browned nuts and saffron mix to the halwa and again mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes and then switch off the stove. It will thicken a bit as it sits.
- Serve garnished with more nuts and few saffron threads. Best served warm.