Greek halva refers to halva with semolina flour (course wheat flour), which is my personal standard of halva. In Greece, if one receives unexpected special guests whether at one’s home or at a taverna (causal restaurant), halva is one of those desserts that can be whipped up within 30 minutes and the ingredients are always in one's pantry. How to describe it? Something new, yet familiar; almost pudding-like, but can cut like a cake; reminiscent of childhood with the texture and aromatics of cinnamon and cooked cereal.
I like to toast pine nuts for the halva, and garnish it with chopped pistachios for great flavor and eye appeal. Nuts are something you can customize in your halva or leave out completely. It is your choice.
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups Cream of Rice
3 heaping tablespoons Spanish pine nuts or blanched and shredded almonds (optional)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon plus ½ teaspoon, for garnish
¼ teaspoon cloves, ground
¼ teaspoon salt (none if using salted butter)
2 cups boiling water
½ cup chopped pistachios, for garnish
In a large heavy saucepan, heat the butter until melted over low heat. Add the Cream of Rice, stirring continuously. When the mixture begins to turn golden, add in the pine nuts/almonds and stir until the mixture is golden brown. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Add in the boiling water with caution, stir until blended and cook for 2-3 minutes until the syrup is absorbed. Remove from heat and cover for about 15 minutes.
Turn into an 8-by-8 inch dish, press down firmly and even out with a spatula. While it is still hot, garnish by sprinkling on a light dusting of cinnamon and the chopped pistachios. Gently, but firmly press with hands. Allow to cool slightly, and then cut into 16 pieces. Serve. Any leftovers can be stored in refrigerator, covered.
Makes 16 servings
Time: 30 minutes
Author: Erin Swing