SEMOLINA SOJI | Ishay Govender, Food Writer and Recipe Developer
I spent my childhood in Pietermaritzburg in the Natal Midlands, with frequent visits to my grandparents in Durban. I have fond memories of eating with my family - every gathering, whether a special prayer or a meal shared after a short drive to a relative's home was marked by ameal or at least a hot snack served with Crerars cool drink (the Natal equivalent of the Cape's Bashew's) or a cup of tea. Always Ceylon.
I remember the sticky hot summers, eating stringy, over-ripe mangoes and plump litchies in my maternal grandparents’ garden with my brother, watching my Ayah (what to we called our gran) cut green mangoes from the trees, to be dried in the sun and made into tangy, spicy pickle. I recall the comfort of potato curry and steaming hot rotis, rolled up and eaten with our hands while we sat inside the kitchen as the afternoon rains wet the earth. That smell too, of the rains in Natal is etched lovingly in my memory. Second to my parents, it is one of the things I miss most about living in Natal.
On cold or rainy days, my mother would often make a small pot of soji - a rich, buttery semolina dessert made with cardamom, cinnamon and slivered almonds. In later years my mother used flaked almonds that she'd toast. My brother didn't care for the golden sultanas she added, juicy and sweet, but I loved them. The smell of the semolina browning in butter is heady and welcoming, an instant reminder of my mother's kitchen. Soji is akin to nursery food a buttery bowl of simple, soothing comfort, and home.
375 ml semolina
100 g butter
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods,
½ t ground cardamom
100 ml sugar, adjust to taste
pinch salt (1/8 t)
80 ml sultanas or raisins
500 ml milk
80 ml single cream
4 T toasted flaked almonds
In a medium sized pot on low heat on the stove, add semolina and butter. Cook for 5 minutes or until the semolina starts browning, all the while stirring. Allow the grains to get a touch of colour evenly, by stirring the mixture around.
Add the cinnamon and crushed cardamom pods, sugar, salt and half the milk. Turn up the heat to medium and stir well. The mixture will start to thicken after a minute or so. Add the sultanas, powdered cardamom if using and the rest of the milk.
Keep stirring. The semolina grains will start to absorb the milk and may splutter slightly. Once the liquid has been absorbed, around 10 minutes from the time you added the milk (some prefer a drier soji to others), remove from heat.
Add fresh cream and stir through. Sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds and add a pat of butter if you wish. Enjoy warm.