This semolina halava, roasted in butter is an entirely different beast to the sesame halva eaten in the Middle East. It’s warm, comforting and pudding-like.

I ate a lot of this growing up (we’ve talked before about what a well-fed child I was). It was often served at the temple as it is easy to make in very large quantities for a lot of people. Sometimes we had it for breakfast on a Sunday. We had it with custard, a pairing that is delicious but utterly devoid of any cultural authenticity.

I hadn’t had halava in a few years until recently when I visited Chettinad, a South Indian restaurant off Goodge Street with beautiful wooden carvings of bharatanatyam dancers on the walls. Much to my delight, the thali I ordered came with a dish of halava.


150g semolina

150g sugar

75g butter or plant-based margarine

60g raisins

300ml water

You’ll need two saucepans for this recipe, one bigger than the other.

1. Put the water, sugar and raisins into the smaller saucepan and leave to boil over a medium heat.

2. As your water boils, melt the butter in the larger saucepan. Add the semolina and toast over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. It will turn brown within 10-15 minutes or so.

3. Now comes the fun bit! Turn the heat off for both pans. At arm’s length, add the pan of sugar syrup and raisins to the toasted semolina. It will hiss, splutter and bubble, quite dramatically. Stir it, taking care not to get splattered by the hot bubbling mixture. Return to a low heat, making sure it is evenly mixed.

5. Serve warm with custard, single cream or ice cream.