Semolina and Chickpea Flour Halva with Almonds and Saffron

In Bengal this halva is called mohan bhog, “captivating dish”, and is a personal favorite. Flavored with warm aromatics –saffron, black pepper, fennel seeds and cassia leaves –it is rib-sticking fare for a cold winter day.
Preparation and cooking (after assembling ingredients): about 30 minutes
• Milk or a mixture of 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water – 2 ¼ cups (540 ml)
• Sugar – 1 cup (210 g) 
• Good-quality saffron threads – ¼ teaspoon (! Ml) 
• Currants – ¼ cup (35 g) 
• Ghee or unsalted buffer – ½ cup (120 ml) 
• Cassia or allspice leaf, or ½ bay leaf – 1 
• Fennel seeds – ½ teaspoon (2 ml) 
• Sifted chickpea flour (Sifted before measuring) – ½ cup (50 g) 
• Fine-grained semolina (pasta flour) – ¾ cup (125 g) 
• Sliced or slivered almonds – ½ cup (55 g)
• Freshly ground black pepper – 1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml) 
• Freshly ground nutmeg – ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) 
1. Combine the milk or milk-water mixture and sugar in a heavy saucepan and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, add the saffron and currants, and cover.

2. Place the ghee or butter in a heavy pan over moderate heat. When it is hot, add the cassia, allspice or bay leaf and fennel seeds, and fry for several seconds. Stir in the chickpea flour, semolina or farina and almonds. Reduce the heat to moderately low and, stirring constantly, toast the ingredients for 10-12 minutes. It is ready when the chickpea flour and semolina darken a few shades to a warm golden color; they should not be allowed to brown.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the sweet liquid into the grains. At first the grains may sputter but will quickly cease as the liquid is absorbed. Place the pan over low heat and, while stirring, simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed and the grains are swollen, from 5-8 minutes. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of black pepper and nutmeg.
6 to 8
By Yamuna Devi Dasi