A few years back, I went on a Matunga food trail organised by the now shut MumbaiBoss. Among the flurry of dosas and filter coffee we had that day, the standout dish for me was Jackfruit Sheera at Ramashraya. Sheera, for the uninitiated, is a thick porridge like dessert made with semolina. It's one of the easiest Indian desserts to make, and a classic comfort food. At Ramashraya, they excel in making different variations each day. Their most popular variety seems to be pineapple sheera but on the day we visited, they had a jackfruit sheera on offer.
Now jackfruit, specially the sweet, ripe, variety used in the sheera, can be quite an acquired taste. I only tasted it for the first time a few years back and it took me a while getting used to its rather overwhelming smell. I enjoy it now and with jackfruit now in season, I decided to try making the sheera at home.
The first step in making the sheera is, of course, getting jackfruit pieces. It's a difficult fruit to handle and cut through but thankfully, Mumbai vendors sell it to you nicely cut and cleaned. If you can't find jackfruit, just go without or replace with pineapple. The recipe still works.
1/2 cup semolina
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup jackfruit, finely chopped
2 cups water
4 tbsp ghee
5-6 saffron strands or 2-3 drops yellow food coloring
almonds or cashews to garnish, optional
Heat the water in a saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil for another 2-3 minutes to get your mixture all syrupy. At this point, add the saffron strands, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.
Pour the semolina in a dry nonstick pan and cook, stirring constantly, until it is lightly browned and toasty. Remove to a plate. Put the pan back on the heat and add ghee. Now the thing about ghee in sheera is, you can use a lot more than the 4 tbsp. Some people would even use the same quantity as the semolina, so a 1/2 cup in this case. I personally find the 4 tbsp quantity to be optimum.
Okay, back to heating the ghee now. Once it melts, add jackfruit pieces and stir on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they are coated with ghee and heated through. Add the semolina, give a stir to mix and immediately pour in the sugar syrup. Make sure to add the syrup slowly, stirring as you go, to avoid lumps. Keep the heat low, and keep stirring until the sheera is thick like a porridge and you can't see individual grains of semolina. Garnish with almond or cashew slivers, if you like.