Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Halva - a dessert that knows no limits

For me the definition of halva (or halvah, halava) has always been peanut halva. In Estonia these shiny packages with Ali Baba on them are known to everybody. We do have quality sesame halva too and even sunflower halva in little plastic bags that one can find in those little shops with questionable value on some streetcorner.
Yes, peanut halva. I remember spying on the biggest pieces when my mom used to cut it up for the family. Now I've been grabbing a knife when someone has bought a package to sneak some of it into a dessert or onto a cake. It's superb with apples. And berries. And curd cheese. And yoghurt.

Halva is a widespread dessert, but it's usually made of tahini (sesame paste) or semolina flour. It was about a year ago when I discovered an Indian recipe for carrot halva (my heart went 'ooh' and 'aah' at the same time) and began seeing all the opportunities: vegetables, seeds, nuts. Why not try beetroot halva?
In any case, halva is a very sweet dessert that's always served cold. Honey is a usual component, but different spices, raisins, syrups, pieces of nuts, vanilla etc can be added. I tried to find my own basic recipe for peanut halva. Although the final result is not exactly what I had hoped it to be, it makes a delicious dessert. I believe you could cheat a bit here by just using store-bought peanut butter.

Peanut halva with vanilla

140 g peanuts
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp honey

1. Roast the peanuts on a dry skillet until golden brown.
2. Grind the peanuts and sugar to flour-like consistence (I used a coffee grinder as my food processor wouldn't have been good enough for the nuts to be finely ground).

3. Add honey and vanilla. Pulse in a food processor until the consistency is really smooth and the halva can be formed or has already formed a stiff ball.
4. Shape the halva to your liking, wrap it into plastic wrap and let it stand in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

The finished dessert isn't as crumbly as the store-bought version, but tastes as good. It can be sliced easily: it won't fall apart or flatten. I believe the best way of serving it is indeed to just slice it. It's consistence is somewhere between crumbly and soft. The taste slightly reminds of peanut butter and that's probably because the amount of sugar added is smaller than usual. It may be just a bit sticky on the tongue. But the fingers! The feeling on my fingers after eating it was just like after eating store-bought halva, so it must be the real thing!

What next? I'd like to try adding syrup instead of sugar or just more sugar to make the halva harder. Heating up the whole thing after reaching smooth consistency is another idea: it would reduce the proportion of liquid and sugar in it would start to caramelise. Using cashews next time would be great. One day carrot halva has to be tried too, but that's already another day, another recipe and another story.

This post will be taking part in the event Monthly Mingle #9, this month's theme being Arabian Nights.


Monisha said...

I've also had Halva on my mind lately, your looks delicious and I think the step-by-step photos are helpful. I'd love a slice :)!

Evelin said...

Thank you!
Oh and I wish I had cut these slices thinner, maybe they would've lasted longer:)

Meeta said...

This looks wonderful. Love the way you have taken time to go through it step by step.

Andrew Laird said...

Friend, maybe try boiling the sugar and honey until it reaches 240 deg, that's "soft ball" candy, then pouring over peanut meal. When cool this becomes much firmer.

Anonymous said...

She uses your images:

Anonymous said...

Note: Halva is not always served cold. In fact, Indian carrot halva is delicious served hot.