Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Greek Almond Halva

This is my new favorite sweet treat. Seriously. I don't know why but I fell in love with this stuff. It is so delicious to me. Picky husband and all three of my kids don't like it. So I can't promise a recipe your whole family will love, but they might, you never know. Prior to making this Greek Halva for I Heart Cooking Clubs theme of the week -- Getting a little Nutty! -- I wasn't really sure what it even was. I always thought of it as a Middle Eastern sweet, something not quite a cake and not quite a candy, and I guess that's pretty much what it is, but I was not prepared to like it as much as I did! For some reason it reminded me of the hard lumps / clumps that sometimes happen when you make cream of wheat and don't stir properly. I love those and have since I was a child. If you do not like those I don't think you'll care for this, but again, you never know. That's always how I look at recipes, you'll never know if you'll like it if you don't try!

Housewives' Halva -- Halva Tis Nikokiras
Tessa Kiros -- Food From Many Greek Kitchens
Serves an Extended Family (I made a half batch)

2 and 2/3 cups sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
long strip of lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 cup olive oil (I did half olive oil and half coconut oil, in the recipe preface it is mentioned that butter is also sometimes used)
2/3 cup almonds, skin on, coarsely chopped
1 cup fine semolina
1 cup coarse semolina (I only had one type, so that's what I used)

For the syrup, put the sugar, lemon juice and rind, cinnamon stick and cloves into a pot with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes or so.

Warm the oil in a big heavy bottomed pot.

Add the almonds and cook over medium heat, stirring, until lightly toasted.

Stir in the semolina and dry-roast them too until a bit golden here and there (okay, that didn't really make sense to me, I reread it a bunch of times but with so much oil in the pan I'm not sure how it would be "dry" roasting, but in the end it was great so I guess I shouldn't have worried about it) stirring constantly and taking care that it doesn't burn.

Lightly oil a 6 cup capacity savarin or ring pan. Scoop out the lemon rind and spices from the syrup, then gradually stir into the roasting semolina. Take care when you pour it in, as it will bubble and splash. Stir it constantly over low heat until the liquid is all absorbed by the semolina and it comes away from the side of the pot.

Remove from heat and scrape into the pan. Flatten with the back of a soup spoon or spatula to push out any creases or small spaces. Let it cool for a few minutes (I set the timer for 10), then ease the halva away from the sides of the pan in a few places using a thin knife. Quickly turn the pan over and unmold the halva onto a flat plate. Scatter with the ground cinnamon and cut into slivers to serve. You only need thin pieces.


Even though no one else liked this but me, I LOVED it! Not sure when I would make it again, just because I was the only fan, but definitely for a Greek potluck or something like that, not that I've ever had or been invited to a Greek potluck (wait, I take that back, when I was in high school we had a Greek potluck in humanities class, but that was over a decade ago :) ), but it sure sounds like fun. Anyway, the aroma while the semolina "toasted" in the oil was so yummy and reminded me of a middle eastern restaurant. Mmmm! If you like to try new things like I do, give this a go :)


Kim said...

Your pictures of the halva are so pretty. I've been curious about this dessert but have been afraid to try it because I'm not sure if my family would like it or not. I'd totally love to steal a couple pieces of yours though.

Ei said...

I think this would be right up my alley. I basically love anything almondy. That is an awful lot of halva to have around if you're the only one eating it, though!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Wow! You are on a roll with these great desserts! I haven't had this kind of halva before - looks perfect!

Heather said...

This one's on my short-list for sure. I've had halva, but never tried making it. You made some killer treats in your kitchen this week!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Texturally halva is not my favorite thing but I am truly impressed with how pretty yours looks. ;-)

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