Today, I am preparing a vermicelli cake called sawine or sewine. Sawine is prepared with vermicelli and dried fruits that are cooked in milk flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices and extracts. Once cooked, its texture is similar to one of a pudding. It is then poured into a dish and refrigerated until it firms up.
This is a typical Guyanese and Trinidadian dessert prepared by Muslims to celebrate Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Tradition has it that this delicacy is consumed since the dawn and throughout this day of celebration. It is even served to worshipers in mosques during the first prayer of the day.
It appears sawine has Pakistani origins. In India and Pakistan, it is called seviyan kheer. Over there, it is prepared for all sorts of special occasions. Pakistanis say about this very nutritious dessert that it is the symbol of hospitality.
Whether in Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago or Guyana, the spices used for this dessert are the same. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg… These scents that make us travel and that I used in my divine sawine are also found in Pakistani koftas and Indian shrimp biryani.
There are two ways to serve sawine. The first one which is more common in Trinidad and Tobago is a form of hot soup. The second one is a solidified vermicelli cake. It is this second version that is served in Guyana.
So what is the verdict? We all loved it!
I honestly thought this cake would be too dense. I had planned to serve it with hot milk flavored with the same fragrant spices to pour onto the cake! Well, that was not the case! It was moist and my cousin Lynda and I just loved it.
- 7 oz. vermicelli
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 (14 oz.) can condensed milk
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons raisins (or currants)
- 2 tablespoons chopped maraschino cherries
- 4 tablespoons sliced almonds
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 7 cardamom pods
- 1 (½-inch) piece ginger , freshly grated
Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
Cook the noodles in the butter until slightly golden.
Pour the whole milk, condensed milk and water.
Bring back to a boil. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom (remove pods after cooking), and bitter almond extract.
Finally add all the fruits.
Simmer for 20 minutes until ¾ of the liquid is absorbed.
Stir regularly during cooking so the milk does not stick to bottom of pan.
Grease a mold and pour the preparation.
Refrigerate for several hours until the cake is firm and you can cut slices.
It is also possible to serve sawine as a hot dessert soup.