Turkish traditional dessert Halvah


Turkish Traditional Dessert Halvah

Halvah (helva) is the oldest type of dessert in Turkish cuisine writes noted Turkish culinary expert, Nevin Halıcı, in her book Turkish Cookery; the earliest known recipe for halvah dates to the 11th century. The name is derived from the Arabic root hulw, or halwa, meaning sweet, and describes a large family of confections in the Middle East, Central and South Asia and the Balkans.

Halvah has three basic ingredients: a starch, a fat and a sweetener. It most commonly is made with semolina, but several other distinct versions of halvah exist. To prepare this sweet, semolina (or equivalent) typically is toasted or fried while constantly stirring it with a wooden spoon, sometimes together with butter, until golden brown. Liquid, scalded milk for example, is then mixed in, along with sugar or reduced grape juice (pekmez) and melted butter. Frequently almonds, pine nuts or pistachios are added for flavor

Halvah has long been associated with commemorative occasions, both happy and sorrowful, and this tradition still remains strong in Turkish culture. It is served wherever people gather to recognize births, circumcisions and weddings, among others, and to mourn deaths. This sweet is also an important component of religious ceremonies and feast days.

turkish dessert halvah


İrmik Helvası
Semolina halvah. Serves 8–10.
This adaptation of a popular dessert was provided by Ali Kemal Dincer, a business owner in Belmont, MA, who is from Gaziantep, a city in southeastern Turkey.

2 cups whole milk
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ vegetable oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 cup semolina (largest-sized grain available)

Bring milk, sugar and butter to boil in a medium-size saucepan. Set aside or keep on low heat. Put vegetable oil and pine nuts in a large saucepan and cook over moderate heat until bubbles form. Cook nuts until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add semolina and stir vigorously for 3–6 minutes. If a darker halvah is preferred, cook a few minutes longer. It will begin to burn at about 10 minutes. Slowly add the milk, sugar and butter to the nuts and semolina. The mixture will start to boil rapidly, so watch out for spattering. Stir continuously over moderate heat for several minutes until thickened but still fluid. Pour into a shallow, 9-inch pie dish, and cool until set, about 2 hours. To serve, cut into pieces. For variation, slivered almonds or unsalted pistachios can be substituted for pine nuts.

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