Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat mainly used in making upma, pasta, and couscous. The word semolina can also refer to sweet dessert made from semolina and milk. The term semolina is also used to designate coarse middlings from other varieties of wheat, and from other grains, such as rice and maize.
Semolina is derived from the Italian word semola, meaning 'bran'. This is derived from the ancient Latin simila, meaning 'flour', itself a borrowing from Greek (semidalis), "groats". The words simila, semidalis, groat, and grain may all have similar proto-Indo-European origins as two Sanskrit terms for wheat, samita and godhuma, or may be loan words from the Semitic root smd - to grind into groats (cf. Arabic: ? sam?d).
Modern milling of wheat into flour is a process that employs grooved steel rollers. The rollers are adjusted so that the space between them is slightly narrower than the width of the wheat kernels. As the wheat is fed into the mill, the rollers flake off the bran and germ while the starch (or endosperm) is cracked into coarse pieces in the process. Through sifting, these endosperm particles, the semolina, are separated from the bran. The semolina is then ground into flour. This greatly simplifies the process of separating the endosperm from the bran and germ, as well as making it possible to separate the endosperm into different grades because the inner part of the endosperm tends to break down into smaller pieces than the outer part. Different grades of flour can thus be produced.
Semolina made from durum wheat is yellow in color. Semolina is often used as the base for dried products such as couscous, which is made by mixing roughly 2 parts semolina with 1 part durum flour (finely ground semolina).
Broadly speaking, meal produced from grains other than wheat may also be referred to as semolina, e.g. rice semolina, or corn semolina (more commonly known as grits in the U.S.).
When semolina comes from softer types of wheats, it is white in color. In this case, the correct name is flour, not semolina. In the United States, coarser meal coming from softer types of wheats is known also as farina. It is lower grade (lower protein) and does not hold shape as well as durum.
In Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, Romania and Croatia, semolina is known as Grieß (a word related to "grits") and is mixed with egg to make Grießknödel, which can be added to soup. The particles are fairly coarse, between 0.25 and 0.75 millimeters in diameter.
Semolina is a common food in West Africa, especially among Nigerians. It is eaten as either lunch or dinner with stew or soup. It is prepared just like eba (cassava flour) or fufu with water and boiled for 5 to 10 minutes.
In Austria, Hungary, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania, Croatia and the Czech Republic semolina is cooked with water or milk and sweetened with squares of chocolate to make the breakfast dish Grießkoch or Grießbrei. The German Grießbrei and the Dutch griesmeelpap usually don't contain chocolate and are rather served as a dessert than a breakfast dish. In English this kind of dessert is commonly known as semolina pudding.
In Slovakia, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, Israel, and Russia, it is eaten as breakfast porridge, sometimes mixed with raisins and served with milk. In Swedish it is known as mannagrynsgröt, or boiled together with blueberries, as blåbärsgröt. In Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Latvia, for a dessert usually eaten in summer, semolina is boiled together with juice from berries and then whipped into a light, airy consistency to create klappgröt (Swedish name), also known as vispipuuro (Finnish name) or mannavaht (Estonian name) or uzputenis (Latvian name).
In the Middle East and North Africa, basbousa (also called harisa in North African Arabic and the Alexandrian dialect of Egyptian Arabic) is made chiefly of semolina. In some cultures, it is served at funerals, during special celebrations, or as a religious offering. In North Africa, it is also used to make harcha, a kind of griddle cake often eaten for breakfast, commonly with jam or honey.
On the Indian subcontinent, semolina (called Suji or Shuji) is used for such sweets as Halwa and Rava Kesari. Such a preparation is also a popular dessert in Greece (halvas) and Cyprus (halvas). In Greece, the dessert galaktoboureko is made by making a custard from the semolina and then wrapping it in phyllo sheets. In Cyprus, the semolina may be mixed also with almond cordial to create a light, water-based pudding. In Turkey ("Helva"), Bulgaria ("Halva"), Iran ("Halva"), India ("Halva"), Bangladesh ("Halua"), Palestine ("Khalva"), and Arab countries, halawa is sometimes made with semolina scorched with sugar, butter, milk, and pine nuts. In Nepal, semolina is called Suji and is used for preparing sweet dishes like Haluwa (Nepali equivalent of Indian and Pakistani Halwa) or Puwa.
As an alternative to corn meal, semolina can be used to flour the baking surface to prevent sticking. In bread making, a small proportion of durum semolina added to the usual mix of flour is said to produce a tasty crust.