I first made sooji ka halwa—or sheera as we Maharashtrians call it—for Devansh when he was around 9 months old. By that time he had started eating khichdis, ragi porridge, poha, and moong-daal rice. I wanted to introduce sooji in his diet because of its health benefits. As I have written in my Vegetable Upma post, sooji is a rich source of protein, and it helps boost our immune system. I made sooji ka halwa using water and jaggery. At that time, I used water to make the halwa as I did not add cow/buffalo milk in Devansh’s food till he turned one.
I, however, had no qualms about using jaggery instead of sugar. My reasoning was this, that if they can add sugar in ready-made cereals why can’t I use jaggery in Devansh’s food? After all jaggery is not processed with chemicals, sugar is. Also I knew that jaggery is a good source of iron and anemic people are advised to include it in their diet. A word of caution though, these days some manufacturers bleach jaggery to lighten its color. So it’s best to use organic jaggery to ensure that it is not chemically treated. Please consult your baby’s pediatrician if you are concerned about adding jaggery in your baby’s food. Meanwhile take a look at the following sites to know why jaggery is a better option than sugar even for us grownups.
I have labeled this recipe as “Food for one year old baby” because milk is one of the ingredients. If you have started adding milk in your child’s food before s/he has turned one, then you can start giving him/her this halwa earlier too. In fact this sugar free halwa is a healthier option even for grownups. Hope your li’l one likes this sooji ka halwa.
Sooji ka Halwa (Sheera) Recipe
- 4-5 tbsp sooji semolina (Preferably use organic sooji as it can't be washed before using it.)
- Approx. 2 cups milk This quantity will depend on your child's age. Toddlers will prefer mushy halwa so you need more milk.
- 5-6 cashew nuts
- 5-6 raisins optional
- Approx. 1/5th tsp cardamom powder I powdered 2 cardamoms
- 2 tbsp homemade ghee clarified butter
- 1 clove
- Jaggery as per taste
- Cut the cashew nuts into small pieces if you are making this halwa for small kids who may have difficulty in eating them whole.
- Prepare jaggery syrup by adding jaggery in 4-5 tbsp of water and then boiling the water for about a minute. (Keep stirring while the water boils.)
- Heat a pan, add 1 tsp ghee, and then add cashew nuts and clove.
- Roast the cashew nuts and clove till the cashew nuts turn light brown, and then take them off from the pan and set them aside.
- Add sooji in the pan, roast for 2-3 minutes till the sooji starts to change color, and then add remaining ghee. (Keep stirring the sooji continuously as it will get burnt otherwise.)
- Roast the sooji in ghee for about a minute or two, and then add milk when it turns light brown. (Keep your hand away from the pan to avoid getting scalded by steam when you pour the milk.)
- Add cardamom powder, roasted cashews and clove, and raisins. (If you are preparing this halwa for babies who can't chew properly, don't add raisins.
- Also, instead of adding pieces of cashew nuts, you should add powdered cashew nuts.)
- Keep stirring till the halwa reaches the desired consistency. (For smaller children you will want the halwa to have pudding-like consistency.)
- Add jaggery syrup, mix it well with the halwa, and then turn off heat.
- You can garnish it with some cashew nuts and raisins. (Devansh doesn’t like it when I add pieces that need to be chewed properly to food that can be swallowed without chewing. So I don't add cashew nuts and raisins in the halwa. He eats the ones I use for garnishing first and then eats the halwa.)
P.S. These days I use organic jaggery powder by Eco Fresh.