In Greece, halva is considered a classic Greek recipe, although it became known to Greeks some time around the end of the 12th century. Various versions of this dessert exist in all Balkan countries, some in the Middle East and even in India and Pakistan.
In Arabic, the word halva means sweet.
It is usually made using olive oil or butter, white sugar, water and semolina. Some like to add dried fruits and nuts in the mixture, such as raisins, walnuts and almonds.
My version is vegan of course, lighter than the original, and, in my opinion, so much more delicious. The olive oil is replaced by a combination of sesame and coconut oil, creating this lighter consistency.
The coconut sugar with the maple and golden syrup give it a toffee-like flavour and the pistachios are simply a wonderful addition. I prefer not to add dried fruit, as they, in turn, add to the sweetness, which becomes overbearing for me.
Theresa’s Semolina Halva With Roasted Pistachios & Sesame Seeds
1/2 cup sesame oil (not toasted)
1/2 cup coconut oil (I prefer deodorised)
1 cup coarse semolina*
1 cup fine semolina
4 cups water
2/3 of a cup coconut sugar
2/3 of a cup maple syrup
2/3 of a cup golden syrup
1tsp ground cinnamon
2tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup roasted pistachios**
1/4 of a cup toasted sesame seeds
🌺 Lightly oil a cake tin (around 20cm) of your preference and set aside.
🌺 In a large deep pan, add the sesame oil and the coconut oil and heat until melted.
🌺 Meanwhile, place the water, the coconut sugar, the two syrups and the cinnamon in another pan and heat through until the sugar has dissolved completely.
🌺 Add the two semolina flours and the salt into the pan with the oils and, using a wooden spoon, stir continuously, over medium heat, for 10-15 minutes. When the semolina looks slightly brown and becomes fragrant, it is ready for the next step. Careful, as it can catch if left unattended.
🌺 Take the semolina off the heat and, very carefully, pour in the water, sugar and syrup mixture. It may boil and spit, so do this with caution. Place the pan back over medium heat and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes, then add the pistachios, saving a few for decoration. Once the mixture starts to come away from the sides of the pan and seems too thick to stir, it’s ready. Take off the heat and stir in the butter.
🌺 Spoon the halva into your prepared tin, spreading it evenly on top. Let it cool for 20 minutes. It will harden as it cools down.
🌺 Carefully turn the halva onto a serving plate and decorate with the sesame seeds and the remaining pistachios.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
*Semolina does contain gluten. However, for those with no gluten intolerance, it offers lots of nutrients, as it is rich in B-Complex vitamins and a good source of selenium and iron.
**Pistachios are high in protein, fibre and antioxidants. They also have several other important nutrients, including vitamin B6, phosphorus, thiamin, copper, manganese and potassium.