Sheer khurma is a dessert made from milk simmered with dates and other dried fruits, and loaded with nuts and vermicelli. It's creamy and comforting, and a classic dish for Eid-al-Fitr.
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If you're a regular here, you'll probably know that I can get a little caught up in the origins of foods. I find it fascinating how cuisines influence each other and evolve. Sometimes it's due to immigrants adapting dishes from home, or the introduction of new ingredients from overseas. But little things can set a cuisine in a whole new direction.
Fusion cuisine is often coined as a new term to talk about food incorporating different cultural influences, but really it has happened for centuries. An example is the interconnection of cuisines along the former Silk Road.
Trading along the Silk Road is responsible for sharing ingredients that we now consider very much global, like rice and apples. Apples have been traced back to Kazakhstan as their native home as a wild plant. They were then cultivated and gradually the many varieties we know today evolved.
You'll also find countries along the route share dishes like flatbread and dumplings, with slight variations, as staples in their cuisine. These typically evolved out of some of the foods for travelers along the Road. You can find out more about the fascinating history in this article, amongst others.
What are the origins of this dish?
Sheer khurma is another dish that has travelled along the route. It is originally Persian, but is now popular across the Indian sub-continent and Centra Asia. It has a few variations - not all add nuts or spices and those used vary. Pretty much all include milk, vermicelli and dates as a minimum.
What does sheer khurma mean?
"Sheer" means milk in Persian and "khurma" means dates. Dates add flavor to the milk, as well as providing some sweetness, which you then add to with a bit of sugar.
Dates are a popular fruit across the Middle East. You'll find them as a popular snack as well as added to dishes, particularly as a garnish. They're also made into a syrup in Israel and other places, as used to top roasted eggplant with tahini.
Dates are said to have been a significant food in Prophet Mohammed's life, and in fact Muslims traditionally break their daily fast during Ramadan by eating one or more dates. It's probably also no accident that this dish with dates is popular as part of Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan.
What kind of vermicelli should you use?
For this dish you are looking for thin vermicelli that is cut into short lengths. If you have a supermarket with an Indian food section, or an Indian market, you may well find the vermicelli specifically intended for sheer khurma.
The Hindu/Urdu/Punjabi name for vermicelli is "seviyan" so they may be labelled as this. They are also sometimes called nylon vermicelli. If you can't find these, though, another thin vermicelli will work.
I'd suggest semolina or other wheat rather than rice noodles, if possible. You may also find roasted vermicelli. This will also work, but if so, skip the step where you toast the vermicelli in the ghee. You can see the difference between the toasted (right) and un-toasted vermicelli above to guide with what you find.
Some use milk solids or condensed milk to make this dessert a slightly thicker, creamier consistency. Feel free to add a little of either, but bear in mind condensed milk makes it sweeter, so you probably won't want to add any additional sugar if you use some. If you use either, skip the first few minutes where you simmer without the vermicelli.
You can serve sheer khurma warm or cold, as you prefer. Either way, it's creamy, comforting and delicious, whether part of a celebratory meal or not. So give this tasty dish a try soon.
Try these other comforting desserts:
- Arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding)
- Umm Ali (an Egyptian dish like a bread pudding made with pastry)
- Dampfnudel (German sweet dumplings with vanilla cream sauce)
- Plus get more dessert recipes in the archives.
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1 tbsp pistachios
- 1 tbsp almonds
- 1 tbsp cashews
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 3 dates 4 if smaller
- ½ cup thin vermicelli 50g
- 2 cups whole milk 480ml
- 1 tbsp sugar or 2, to taste
- ¼ tsp ground cardamon
- 1 pinch saffron either powder, or if using threads, sit them in a little milk before adding
- Roughly chop the pistachios, almonds and cashews. Remove the stones from the dates and roughly chop into pieces roughly the size of raisins.
- Warm the ghee in a small pan over a medium heat. Toast the nuts and raisins in the ghee until lightly brown, a minute or two. Remove from the pan and set aside, straining the ghee from them as you remove, leaving it in the pan.
- Add the vermicelli to the pan and toast, stirring now and then, until it browns lightly but take care that it doesn't burn (around a minute or two). Remove from the pan.
- Add the dates and cook in the ghee a few seconds before adding the milk. Bring to a simmer and simmer around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, before adding the vermicelli.
- Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring now and then again, before adding the nuts and raisins. Simmer 5 minutes more then add the cardamon and saffron. Stir through, remove from the heat then either serve or allow to cool and serve chilled.
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