‘Helva’ in English ‘Halva’ is an easy dessert if you are limited of ingredients and time to make something special for yourself or your friends. Basically, you will need 4 ingredients to make ‘Helva’. You need butter, flour, sugar, and water. If you want to enrich your Helva, you can add pine nuts, walnuts, or pistachio in it and top it with cinnamon.
In Turkish cuisine, we have two types of ‘Helva’. The first one is ‘Semolina Halva’ and the other one is ‘Flour Halva’. Both of them are usually served at funerals, but they are also known as family gathering desserts. They are the old-school type of desserts that we all love. When we say ‘Helva’, we usually mean ‘Semolina Halva’.
The Story of Helva
The word ‘Helva’ came into Turkish cuisine from Arabic culture after Turks accepted the Islamic way of religious belief. In Arabic culture ‘Hulv’ word means sweet. This dessert was prepared especially for Ottoman Sultans and their family members; however, at special dates such as Ramadan month, it is distributed to the people who are living nearby the Sultan’s palace.
In Turkish culture, ‘Helva’ dessert widely makes after funerals. When I was a kid, I wanted to learn why we are eating this delicious dessert after funerals and I have asked my grandmother. She had told me that it is because to remind how sweet and kind was the deceased person is. At that time, I haven’t got the idea, but now it makes sense to remember your loved one as a kind and sweet person by eating a sweet dessert when they passed away.
If you want to eat this dessert, you can find it mostly at fish restaurants. Kebab restaurants usually offer ‘Künefe’ dessert and fish restaurants offer ‘Helva’ dessert. Basically, you need to know where to eat the specific dessert in Turkey.
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 50 g butter
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
- 4 tbsp ground pistachio for topping
Pour water and sugar in a pan and boil them. Simmer about 4-5 minutes at medium-low heat then remove from heat.
In other large non-stick pan melt the butter first. Add the semolina flour and nuts then cook at medium-low heat about 20 minutes or until you see the golden color or smell the toasted aroma by stirring continually.
When it is done lower the heat and pour the boiling syrup to the pan. You need to be very careful while pouring the syrup for not to burn your self as it may splash out little bit.
Stir it as much as you can until smooth. When you see that it gets thicker than pudding, it means it is done.
Remove from heat to a side and let it cool.
Serve them in a small cups by shaping them with the help of spoon.
Top it with ground pistachio and/or cinnamon.
Tip: Put a ball of ice cream on top at each serving.