My mother was here until last Monday, and I kid you not, she made the best halva of her mother career for us. It was one small little change in the simple foolproof recipe that she has been using all her life- she used lime instead of lemon and oh my was that a wonderful deviation.
The halva recipe follows the simple 1-2-3-4 rule, which is fool proof and depending on your unit of measure allows you to make more or less portions of halva. If you use a cup as a unit of measurement you should have enough desert for about six people.
Remember to allow some time for the halva to cool down slightly so that you can mould it into your chosen shape or individual portions.
This desert is easy, quick, cheap and everybody loves it. And the recipe is vegetarian, vegan and dairy free.
Here is how we do Halva in the Moutselou clan although admittedly I prefer to brown the halva a bit more than mom because of the toasted grain smell it releases in the house.
1 measure of olive oil
2 measures of coarse semolina
3 measures of sugar (you can easily reduce that to 2 or even replace with honey)
Peel of half or whole lime or lemon
1 cinnamon stick
A big handful of chopped walnuts
Some finely chopped walnuts for dusting and decoration
Some cinnamon powder for decoration
Prepare a syrup adding the boiled water, the sugar, a cinnamon stick and lime or lemon peel to a heat proof bowl or pan.
Stir the sugar until dissolved, cover and let it sit long enough to unleash the lime and cinnamon flavours[i].
Heat the olive oil in a pan (preferably non stick) until it’s almost sizzling.
Add the semolina to the pan and brown, stirring continuously and until it reaches your preferred shade of semolina brown[ii].
Add a big handful of coarsely chopped walnuts halfway through your browning action.
Remove the lemon/lime peel, stir the syrup in the pan of browned semolina and either remove from heat or lower to minimum whilst you continue stirring.
Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick.
Let the halva mixture cool down for five minutes or more.
Mould either in a bundt cake tin or a loaf tin or in individual moulds of your choice, e.g. Greek coffee cups for smaller portions.
Dust with cinnamon powder and decorate with finely ground walnuts and.
Let the halva cool down before serving. The halva is delicious cold when left in the fridge overnight.
If you wish serve with grapes and decorate with single (soya) cream
[i] The longer you leave your syrup to sit the more flavoursome it will be but if you are in a rush you can just let it sit whilst you go through the next few steps.
[ii] Many people like to toast the semolina very slightly and until it absorbs the oil- if you prefer this your halva can look very pale and almost beige and could be very light. I love to brown the semolina to a heavier complexion but I would recommend a light tan for most beginners.
[iii] You will see the semolina expand.
We found the main ingredient for this new red carrot pasta sauce at the roadside between Temple Bar and Criblyn villages in Ceredigion, Wales.
A compulsory stop to find our bearings and the way to the little thatched cottage that would be our home for the weekend revealed a roadside stall with bunches of fresh organic carrots, homemade jams and eggs. This was still one of those places where you are trusted to pick what you want and leave the money.
We arrived ravenous at the cottage with a bunch of fresh small organic carrots, and fettuccine pasta, tinned plum tomatoes, the basics of garlic, salt and pepper, and the luxury of cinnamon in our travel cook box.
The recipe came together in my mind when I remembered an interview of Anna del Conte, the Italian food writer who raised awareness of Italian cuisine in the UK in the late 70s, and her mention to finely chopped carrots as a main ragu ingredient.
I coarsely grated the carrots for my recipe to infuse the sauce with the bright orange colour and the organic carrot flavours of this star ingredient. The result: a pure delight and a fool-proof vegetarian ragu sauce that is guaranteed to please and comfort. Yum!
- 7-8 small and fresh organic carrots, coarsely grated
- 2 tins of plum tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Half a pack of fettuccine or other dried pasta (120g)
Coarsely grate the carrots after you have washed them well. No need to peel really fresh and young carrots.
Finely chop the onion.
Sweat and sauté the onion on low heat for a few minutes. Use a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
Add the grated carrots and a couple of pinches of salt, and sauté in low heat for another ten minutes or so.
Add the two tins of plum tomatoes and a teaspoon of sugar.
Mash with a wooden spoon; add another pinch of salt or two, one or two teaspoons of cinnamon, stir and cover.
Simmer on low heat for thirty or fourtyfive minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the sauce has reached a thick ragu consistency.
Cover and let the sauce rest for at least fifteen or more. This helps the sauce bind and the flavours come out, patience is a key.
Serve with half a pack of fettuccine, strong crumbly cheddar and coarse pepper (we used Barbers cruncher, a West Country mature, sweet and crunchy cheddar) .
This recipe makes two very generous portions but you can share between three or four.