Eaten at funerals in its home country – this is nothing to be mounful about
It is rare I am a recipe skeptic but so it was with the Persian halva. I was skeptical that a dessert made merely with flour would deliver the lovely texture of the semolina variety common to Turkey & Greece. But I bowed to this mighty cuisine and I decided to try it out. Its smooth but almost chewy , its slightly candied, of course the rosewater and saffron has me at every bite and its sinful. A glass of real Persian tea with it was just heaven. For me this is a very very small step in the glorious alchemy of syrups, nuts, perfumes, essences, pastries, puddings, spices and candies that is Middle Eastern dessert making. I cant stop nibbling.
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups rose water
a pinch saffron, ground
1 1/3 cup water
Take two saucepans because you will make two things simultaneously: a syrup and a “roux” as if making a bechamel sauce.
Place the water and sugar in one saucepan and place on a high heat to boil and create syrup
Place the butter to melt and add the flour. Cook the flour. Keep cooking until it is lightly golden. It must absolutely be cooked (as in a roux). Persians like this browner and nuttier. I actually am not too keen on the whole nutty flour taste but I do know when flour is cooked and I do know when a bechamel sauce has raw flour in it. ie it tastes pretty awful. I cooked the flour here for a good 15 minutes perhaps 20 but I didnt let it go nutty (that I leave to the cook). Just keep tasting the flour – you can taste when it is cooked. It resembles sand at this stage but just keep going, keep turning it with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile dissolve the saffron in the rosewater.
mmmmm isnt that magical? Now pour in the syrup to the sandy flour and butter mixture and add the rosewater/saffron too
keep stirring. I was freaking out that it would go lumpy and my Persian lunch that I was hosting would be ruined! But it behaved well. And then it started becoming kind of gelatinous. A whole new experience. And the saucepan started becoming clean as it clumped together…
and then voila! doesnt this look like a pile of mamaliga? (“polenta”). anyhow thats exactly the texture
so i just modelled it and made patterns with my knuckles and the end of a spoon. then I covered with some orange zest and some chopped pistachios. With tea it cannot be beaten.