Halva is a delicious, traditional dessert made in a many different variations across Greece and throughout the Middle East. To be honest, halva is wonderful in all forms and flavors. We’ve shared our favorite family recipe below. Fine ground semolina flour, chopped nuts and sweet syrup make this the perfect pudding with it’s charmingly delicate texture flavored with aromatic cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. A very special way to end any meal!
Cinnamon, cloves and cardamom are the perfect flavor combination here and complement the wheat and nuts without overwhelming them. Cinnamon sticks add a deep richness to the syrup, the cloves a bit of spice and the cardamom brings the brightness of citrus. Add your cinnamon sticks directly into the pot but remember to keep the cloves and cardamom seeds contained in either a stainless steel tea strainer or a muslin tea bag. This makes is very easy to remove them when the syrup is cooked and makes sure no one accidentally breaks a tooth!
Its important to use the best quality honey you can here. A good Greek honey, preferably thyme, is ideal but whatever honey you choose remember that it will add layers of flavor to your syrup and will make all the difference in just how delicious your finished halva pudding is.
I like to use walnuts but you can use almonds or even pistachios with equally delicious results. How fine you chop the nuts is up to you. Traditionally they are chopped very fine and thats how I prefer it myself. As I’ve mentioned in other recipes, when possible chop your nuts by hand. A spice grinder or food processor can quickly turn your nuts into nut meal and that really isn’t what we want here. If you have a few extra minutes, toast your chopped nuts over low heat for an extra nutty flavor.
The trick to making perfect halva is to think of it like a roux that’s used to thicken soups and stews. Cook the semolina in hot olive oil, mix in the chopped nuts and add hot syrup all at once to the mixture. Stand back because there will be some snap-crackle-popping and you do not want even a drop of boiling syrup to hit you! Stir the syrup in completely, remove pan from heat and quickly cover. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then spoon into molds. The semolina soaks up every drop of the hot syrup and transforms into the most amazingly good creamy, nutty, just sweet enough pudding.
I often use cupcake or muffin tins as molds and of course interesting shaped cups and fluted bundt pans work well too. Really, just use your imagination and what you have in your kitchen! Spoon halva pudding into molds and gently press down, smoothing out top with the back of a spoon. Let your molds cool and set, takes maybe an hour or so, and then gently tip your halva pudding out of the molds and plate. They should slide right out with very little sticking.
- 3 3/4 cups water
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 5 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cups coarse semolina flour
- 2/3 cup chopped nuts
- 2/3 cup light olive oil