Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Non-Semolina Experiment. Show Me The Pudding!

Rava Sheera is a traditional South Indian dessert. A rich creamy pudding with cashews and raisins,it's traditionally served with a dab of Shir-kand (sweetened condensed yogurt).
We've been working hard lately to make a Friday script deadline. For us this means eating in, no wandering around town and a craving for desserts. It seems that any time I'm confined for too long I want to start whipping up dessert. I'm sure there's something deeply psychological about it but who cares when one wants something sweet. What to do, what to do.
Since it's been suddenly drastically cold here at night (good for the grapes) I decided that a warm semolina pudding would just hit the spot. Of course, I had no semolina. I did have polenta however, and I figured...well, I could just switch out the semolina for the polenta. That would work. Wouldn't it?
Off to the internets I went, to look up the technical difference between the two. What I found was, that they could be switched out. There would be a different texture, but I like the sort of grainy crispy mouth feel of polenta with wild mushrooms etc. Would it work in a dessert though with raisins? I had to try.
I started with:
1.) 2 Tbs. of chopped pistachios, and 2 Tb of golden raisins.
I sauteed them lightly in 2 Tbs of oil in a karhai or skillet till the raisins puffed up and the pistachios started to toast
I set them aside on a paper towel to drain and wiped out my pan. Then, I took my pan and added
1.) 6 Tbs of unsalted butter. I melted it.
2.) To that I added 1 and 1/3 cups of polenta
and stirred and stirred until it turned golden brown and toasty. About 10 minutes or so. Till it looked like this:

3.) then I took it off the burner and added in 1 cup of sugar. This time I used regular white sugar, next time I'm planning on doing this with Jaggery.
4.) a pinch of powdered green cardamom
5.) a pinch of saffron dissolved in 2 Tbs of warm milk
6.) 2 Tbs of rose water
I stirred all of this good stuff into my semolina and then put it back on a low flame to cook for another 5 minutes or so. Then,
7.) I added in my pistachios and raisins and took it off the stove.
I put the whole thing in a buttered cake pan let it cool then popped it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

A note about this fridge business. Do this if you're planning on serving this cold, or at room temperature as I did. The pudding would be equally good, if maybe not a tad better served warm, which is what I'm planning on doing the next time I make this.
Now to dress this dish up so that people don't say, "what is this...mush?" when it's served. That's where the Shir-kand comes in.
Shir-kand is a simple reduced yogurt that can easily be made in the fridge on a couple of hours notice and looks just so cool hanging around till it's ready. This is how to do the Shir-kand.
I put 1 and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt into a square of cheesecloth twisted it up and suspended it from a wooden spoon, over a bowl on the top shelf of my fridge. It doesn't get any easier than that. Just let it hang around and drip till you're ready for it.

When the yogurt is ready it'll look like this:

Tight. Right? But we're not done yet.
Before you top anything with this add in
1.) a pinch of powdered green cardamom
2.) 3 Tbs of sugar
3.) 1/2 a pinch of saffron dissolved in a tablespoon of warm milk.
Blend all of this into your Shir-kand and you're good to go.
Now, when I served this I must admit I was concerned. I didn't know whether the polenta would be too grainy for this dessert or would it add an interesting texture.
The evening started off, or rather was supposed to start off with a screening of Yasujiro Ozu's film Autumn Afternoon
20 minutes into the film, the disc glitched, stuttered and stopped.Ok, so scratch Ozu for this evening. Since we have Netflix streaming with our new blu-ray player we decided to sample a few streaming films, a Danish film that turned out to be blurry, the AnnMargaret opening from Bye Bye Birdy, (yeah, we're Mad Men fans)and finally Ed Wood's classic film Bride of the Monster. But without Johnny Depp, Ed Wood wasn't quite Ed Wood, if you know what I'm talking about. I was getting very nervous. The evening was not off to an auspicious start and here I was going to foist my polenta pudding on company. If it failed it would be a perfect end to a not so perfect evening.
I warned everyone. I spooned it into my little French bee glasses. Our guest who travels to India to visit friends regularly dug in. My husband tasted. They liked it.
The polenta worked just fine, not as silky smooth as the semolina might have been but delicious in a rustic sort of way. I'll definitely try it again..after I try it with for real semolina, just because I have to. As soon as I can get my pie hooks on another copy of Autumn Afternoon.


  1. Kathy... really cool.. In some parts of India they also call it as Kesari.. If you add a bit of coloring to it...

  2. Eventhough I love my grandma's polenta, I would love this one too. I love the ingredients combinations you put. Did you use the thin polenta grain or the thicker one?

  3. Looks delicious!!!Oh! I feel like having now itself... Lovely presentation!!!

  4. @ Sandhya, that sounds great..what sort of coloring would you suggest? I'd love to try it.

  5. @Sangeetha, thanks. I planted nasturtiums to use in my cooking..then I thought why not in a picture too..then I ate it.

  6. Kathy, it looks wonderful but what can I use other than Polenta? Polenta makes me gag!

    Your comment on my blog about the Gingko nut made me spit out my coffee. Here I am complaining about not being able to find anything and there you find them right in the park for free :--)

  7. Hey Kathy, yesterday, i got my imagination gone wild after reading PC cuisine's blog and now you continue with dessert out of polenta which proved that polenta is so very vehicle (as PC cuisine said) lol... anyway, today, I just made polenta for the restaurant n yes, my mind gone wild, so, the next time I m doing polenta, I know what to do until i finish up our stock in the store... lol, nice one... thanks for sharing... ;) also, I want to ask u something... about that screenwriting... (I m not thinking of switching career, lol!) but I want to get guide from u... can I? thanks again...

  8. @Janis
    now I'm wondering if there are any around here and if i eat them if they will kill me. Use semolina, or cream of wheat in a pinch. Semolina is what it's supposed to be made of.

  9. @chefnash,
    thanks for your nice comment. I'm Italian and I shouldn't be doing this with polenta! lol. Sure anything you want to ask about writing go ahead. I think next time I'll add in kewra water instead of rose water. I also have pandan here. Is there much difference?

  10. Wow this is awesome. I love polenta will have to try this one...

  11. Kathy.. you get food coloring in small containers orange /yellow.. I personally prefer the orange one.. jsut 1 pinch wud do the wonders.

    My post Dal Tiranga has made it up for the Food for 7 Stages of Life event finale.
    Go to and Pls vote for me .

  12. Sandhya,
    I have some from my Indian market that I've used in's an orange powder unlike american style liquid food coloring. Would that do it?

  13. It sounds as though your experiment worked beautifully! The texture of that yogurt looks lovely.

  14. Kathy ... pudding looks so delicious ... lovely presentation.

    My post 'Tomato Rasam' has made it to the top 10 in the 'Garnish the dish' event. Please vote for C5-Tomato Rasam.
    Link -

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  16. Hi Kathy, this is similar to a dessert my mum makes. Yum! She adds a little orange water and orange zest in place of rosewater, and some white chocolate chips. Heaven! Oh and the shrikhand you made looks great!

  17. this looks great! The yogurt you mention is also "Greek Yogurt" here in the North East USA. You can make it like that or just be lazy and purchase it from Stonyfield Yogurt.

  18. @Squeaky
    yes, I buy Fage yogurt here in California, any Greek yogurt can be used Trader Jojes makes an excellent and economical house brand. I just wanted to make my proove how easy it would be. Also I was out of Greek Yogurt ;)

  19. @Sanja,
    my husband read this and now he wants me to make it your moms' way.

  20. We've used it in cookies, so we know polenta can definitely morph into a dessert. Nice recipe.



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