If you’re like me and you grew up in the Levant in the early 80s, the pictures in this post are sure to bring back fond memories of your childhood. If you didn’t, I guess you must be quite puzzled by the pink squares, so allow me to explain.
The little pink squares that you see are actually a dessert called “Kraiza” or “halawet smeed” which is Arabic for semolina pudding. Halawet al smeed is one of the simplest forms of Arabic desserts. it only requires five simple ingredients and very little time, but in my book it is forever associated with a story.
When I was really young, there was a man who would go around in our neighbourhood with a huge round pan of kraiza (much bigger than the one that you see in the pictures), selling it by the square to little kids who were more than happy to exchange their coins for those tempting pink squares that melt in your mouth like a little cloud of semolina, mastic and rosewater.
My mum was very strict when were kids and street food was not allowed under any circumstances. Beg as we may, we were never allowed to buy Kraiza on the street. To make up for that, she would try to make it at home for us but as you will find out when you get to the recipe, halawet al smeed is very simple. It is just semolina, water, sugar, mastic and rosewater but my mum did not know that or refused to accept that at the time.
She would add butter, milk and a host of other ingredients to the semolina to make it “richer” and more “nutritious”! The desserts she made were tasty but they were not kraiza and my brother and would tell her time and time again that it did not look, smell or taste like the stuff they sell on the street
After a dozen experiments or so, she gave in and summoned the guy who sold the Kraiza and bought us the whole pan! In exchange for her generosity, the Kraiza guy gave her the recipe. Now whenever I make this semolina pudding for my kids or for friends, I always do it with a smile and always with a story.
You can serve kraiza as a stand alone dessert or you can use it as a filling for other desserts like Tamriyeh , it is creamy and flavorful without the cream or the rich ingredients 🙂 a lesson learnt the hard way lol
Karaiza “semolina pudding”
1 cup fine semolina
1 cup sugar
4 cups water
5 mastic beads crushed with a teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
A few drops of red food coloring (optional)
1.In a medium pot, add the semolina, water, sugar and crushed mastic.
2.Cook over medium low heat while stirring continuously until the mix thickens and then comes to a boil
3.Add the orange blossom water and the food coloring
4. Stir until the color is homogenous then take the pudding off the heat
5.Pour the pudding into a tray, you want the pudding to be about 1 cm thick
6.Allow the pudding to cool down completely then place in the fridge for at least two hours