It's mid-afternoon and my husband suddenly declares that he feels like eating halva with coffee. Just like his mother use to make. It's a cool afternoon and halva seems the perfect accompaniment to coffee today. The thought of wonderful aromas of cinnamon and roasted almonds wafting through the house give me the urge to have halva too.
Semolina desserts are something that I grew up with in South Africa. This halva reminds me of an Indian version that yields a taste similar to this Greek recipe. There was an association with a grand occasion whenever my mum would make it. This recipe is from Vefa Alexiadou's book "Greek Pastries and Desserts".
The syrup will fill your kitchen with the fragrance of cinnamon and awaken your senses. It's such a tasty treat!
This recipe is not difficult, involves just a few steps and yields a sweet, delicious dessert. You can mould the halva into fancy shapes that add an attractive decorative touch.
You will need
- 4 cups water
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- the rind of 1 lemon
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 cups coarse semolina
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
- Roasted blanched almonds to garnish
Put the water and sugar in a large, heavy pan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add cinnamon, lemon rind and cloves, cover the pan and boil the syrup for 5 minutes.
Remove the spices.
Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the semolina and brown it over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden. The degree you brown it depends on your own personal taste. The browner the semolina, the heavier the halva. A few minutes before the end of browning add the almonds.
Carefully empty the browned semolina into the hot syrup, stirring constantly over medium heat until all the syrup is absorbed and the semolina is puffed and soft. Halva is ready when it falls off the spoon cleanly.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel, then the lid. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes. Spoon halva into one large mould or smaller individual moulds. Press to pack tightly. Unmould onto a serving dish and sprinkle with a little cinnamon. Garnish with roasted almonds.
Serve warm or cold. It keeps at room temperature for up to one week.