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Vanilla Ice Cream with Sesame Candies and Halvah

Vanilla Ice Cream with Sesame Candies and Halvah

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Makes 6 Servings


  • 3 1/2 ounces sesame candies*

  • 1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream

  • Crumbled halvah*

  • Honey

Recipe Preparation

  • Start by placing sesame candies in a large resealable plastic bag. Crush the candies with a rolling pin until broken into small pieces. Divide ice cream among 6 bowls. Top with crushed candy and crumbled halvah. Drizzle with honey.

Recipe by Melissa Clark


Photos by Mark Thomas

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The Secret Ingredient (Sesame): Sweet Sesame Brittle Recipe

The last two weeks of sesame have focused on the savory side of the seed. But I promised it was a versatile ingredient, and I aim to deliver this week with a simple, do-it-yourself version of sweet sesame brittle.

Growing up, we always had sweet sesame around the house. My mother is an addict. She always has a bag of what is labeled "sesame crunch," sesame seeds solidified with almonds in hard honey caramel, frozen as if in amber. The candy is hard, and one bite sends splintered seeds and burnt sugar all over you it sticks to your teeth, and it is exotic and satisfying and feels somehow healthier than, say, a Jolly Rancher.

When she is feeling particularly decadent, she indulges in a bar of halvah, a candy made from sesame paste, than crumbles and turns to a paste in your mouth with the satisfying effect of pulling peanut butter off a spoon. Sesame candy is, to us, exotic, and, most winningly, never too sweet. Plus, there is the added benefit of making candy at home with just almonds, sesame seeds, sugar, honey, and water. How could you feel bad about that?

I find candy-making intimidating. Even after I bought my candy thermometer. This recipe requires next to no precision, and hence, no apprehension. Boil all the ingredients together in a nonstick pan, smooth it onto a Silpat, wait for it to cool, and chop into little sticks. In my family, of course, we just divvy it up amongst us and keep it in jars to pick on while watching TV or to smuggle into the movies. But if it is less familiar to you, I recommend making it as the simple, very much appreciated homemade end to a North African or Middle Eastern dinner.

The Wackiest Jewish Ice Cream Flavors on Earth

If you’re a fan of Ben and Jerry’s, you’ve likely heard of some comically flavored ice creams — Americone Dream or Phish Food, anyone?

This summer, in honor of National Ice Cream Month (yes, it’s a real thing), we’ve rounded up the craziest Jewish ice cream flavors from herring to cholent and haroset to jelly donuts.

Fan favorites include everything from tzimmes (honey carrot ice cream) scooped up at Max & Mina’s Ice Cream in Queens, N.Y., to hummus, tehina and za’atar offered at Lavan Restaurant in Jerusalem and local Tel Aviv ice cream parlors.

But nothing quite compares with the quintessential Jewish Diaspora flavor — Nova Lox. According to Josh Perl of Max & Mina’s, in 2000, Chase Manhattan Bank approached the ice creamery about creating a special ice cream flavor for a big meeting they were hosting. Rather than serving typical business meeting fare, the bank wanted something that would “shake people up.” So the bank, along with Max & Mina’s team, came up with the idea to forgo actual bagels and lox and serve lox ice cream instead. This flavor — along with cholent, herring and chocolate rugalach — has been on the menu ever since. We recommend trying the Nova Lox — a rich vanilla base with nova lox, cream cheese and salt all swirled into one — on a bagel for a bizarre but Jewish take on the ice cream sandwich.

For those who can’t digest milk, (you know who you are!) or for those who wish to enjoy a frozen treat after a meat meal, lucky for you these uniquely Jewish ice creams also come dairy-free, or pareve. Chozen’s “Heavenly Halvah”, a non dairy halvah crème, with swirled caramel and sesame crunch candies is a great option.

Zisalek (from “sweetness “in Yiddish), a kosher ice cream shop which recently made its US debut from Israel, also offers up some unique dairy free flavors. This franchise in Borough Park, offers the highest level of kashrut, as well as many uniquely Jewish flavors. Chaim Szmidt, the main blogger of The Kosher Scene is a regular customer at Zisalek, and says that “both the dairy and non-dairy flavors are the stuff dreams are made of.”

If all of this Jewish ice cream talk is making your mouth water, hop on the bandwagon and create your own uniquely Jewish flavor. If you need some inspiration, check out Tablet’s annual post: “if Ben & Jerry’s flavors were Jewish.” Each year their creative staff comes up with a host of hilarious Jewish-inspired yet completely hypothetical ice cream flavors. My personal favorites include Moishemellow, Wailing Walnut, Berry P’ri Hagafen, Halvah Negilah, Candy Bar Refaeli and Gefilte Phish Food. Share your concoctions and recipes in the comments. Who knows, maybe next year Ben & Jerry’s will feature your creation at their factory store in Vermont.

Naomi Sugar is the author of, a blog dedicated to making and sharing her ice cream creations. At 365scoops we believe in good, old fashioned ice cream free of preservatives (and ingredients that you cannot pronounce!) We mix only the best organic milks, creams, sugar and eggs, with a variety of flavors to create artisanal, custom-made flavors. Visit to order some today. When she’s not creating ice cream, Naomi works for Project Sunshine and holds a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University.

The Wackiest Jewish Ice Cream Flavors on Earth

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Related To:

Salted Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge (No. 1)

Salted Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge (No. 1)

1: Salted Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge Combine 3/4 cup each heavy cream and sugar with 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat simmer, whisking, until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons flaky salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Sprinkle with more salt if desired.

2: Raspberry Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge Make Salted Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge (No. 1), omitting the salt whisk in 2 tablespoons raspberry jam and 1 teaspoon raspberry extract.

3: Classic Hot Fudge Combine 1 cup each heavy cream and sugar with 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips until smooth. Whisk in 2 teaspoons vanilla and a pinch of salt.

4: Orange-Chocolate Hot Fudge Make Classic Hot Fudge (No. 3) whisk in 1 teaspoon each orange extract and grated orange zest with the vanilla.

5: Olive Oil Hot Fudge Combine 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, 1/4 cup each extra-virgin olive oil and heavy cream, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup and a pinch of salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking, until smooth, 2 minutes.

6: Chocolate Shell Combine 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips and 1/4 cup coconut oil in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, whisking, until melted, 4 to 5 minutes let cool slightly to thicken.

7: Birthday Cake Shell Make Chocolate Shell (No. 6), replacing the chocolate chips with 8 ounces chopped white chocolate use only 3 tablespoons coconut oil. Once melted, stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon butter extract, then 1 tablespoon finely chopped rainbow sprinkles.

8: Peanut Butter Shell Make Chocolate Shell (No. 6), replacing the chocolate chips with 1 cup each peanut butter chips and peanut butter and 1 tablespoon sugar.

Peanut Pretzel Brittle (No. 9)

Peanut Pretzel Brittle (No. 9)

9: Peanut Pretzel Brittle Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 cup light corn syrup and 6 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 300 degrees F. Stir in 3/4 cup mini pretzels and 1/3 cup salted peanuts. Spread onto a nonstick foil-lined baking sheet let cool, then chop into pieces.

10: Sesame Brittle Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan over medium heat cook, swirling occasionally, until amber, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds and a pinch of salt, then 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Spread in a thin layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet let cool, then break into pieces.

11: Maple Nuts Combine 1/2 cup each light corn syrup and maple syrup and 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking, then remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup each chopped pecans and walnuts and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

12: Coffee-Coconut Crunch Combine 1/4 cup each chopped coconut flakes, white chocolate chips, chocolate-covered espresso beans and toasted hazelnuts.

13: Tropical Crunch Combine 1/4 cup each chopped cashews, macadamia nuts, dried pineapple and coconut flakes.

14: Banana-Peanut Crunch Toss 1/3 cup each raisins, chopped dried bananas and honey-roasted peanuts and 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt.

15: Rose-Sugared Pistachios Whisk 1 egg white with 2 teaspoons rosewater and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt until frothy. Stir in 1 1/2 cups roasted pistachios, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup crushed dried rose petals. Spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees F, stirring every 15 minutes, until dry, 45 minutes.

16: Pie Chips Brush 1 round refrigerated pie dough with beaten egg sprinkle with turbinado sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut into 1-by-1/2-inch strips with a fluted cutter. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 425 degrees F until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

17: Apple Pie Topping Combine 3 Golden Delicious apples (peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes), 1/2 cup apple juice, 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 pinches of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat simmer until tender and syrupy, 8 to 10 minutes.

18: Blueberry Pie Topping Combine 2 cups blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat simmer until thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.

19: Ancho Blackberry Sauce Combine 2 cups blackberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder in a medium saucepan over medium heat simmer, mashing the berries occasionally, until thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.

20: Passion Fruit Sauce Bring one 14-ounce packet thawed frozen passion fruit pulp, the pulp and seeds from 2 fresh passion fruits and 1 1/4 cups sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk 2 tablespoons each cornstarch and water, then whisk into the passion fruit mixture and cook until thickened, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat whisk in 1 tablespoon butter.

21: Basil-Peach Compote Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup each water and fresh basil in a saucepan over medium heat simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool strain. Return the syrup to the saucepan and add 5 peaches (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges) simmer until the peaches start to break down, 15 minutes.

Spiced Pineapple Compote (No. 22)

Spiced Pineapple Compote (No. 22)

22: Spiced Pineapple Compote Combine 2 cups chopped pineapple, 2 tablespoons each granulated sugar, light brown sugar and lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and grated nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat simmer until softened and syrupy, 7 to 10 minutes.

Raspberry-Vanilla Sauce (No. 23)

Raspberry-Vanilla Sauce (No. 23)

23: Raspberry-Vanilla Sauce Combine 2 pints raspberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste in a saucepan over medium heat simmer until the berries break down and thicken slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain.

24: Cardamom Strawberries Toss 2 cups sliced strawberries, 2 tablespoons each sugar and lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom. Let sit until juicy, about 30 minutes.

25: Sour Cherry–Red Wine Sauce Combine one 35-ounce jar sour cherries (undrained), 1/4 cup each sugar and dry red wine and 2 wide strips lemon zest in a saucepan over medium-high heat simmer, mashing the cherries, until the liquid reduces by three-quarters, 15 to 20 minutes.

26: Balsamic Cherries Toss 2 cups halved pitted cherries with 2 tablespoons each sugar and white balsamic vinegar and a pinch of coarsely ground pepper. Let sit until juicy, about 30 minutes.

27: Ginger Plums Toss 1 pound chopped plums with 1 tablespoon each sugar, lemon juice and honey and 1 teaspoon grated ginger. Let sit until juicy, about 30 minutes.

28: Cognac Prunes Combine 2 cups pitted prunes, 2/3 cup cognac and 1/2 cup each sugar and water in a saucepan bring to a simmer and cook until syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes.

29: Butterscotch Sauce Cook 1 stick butter and 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking, until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add 1 cup heavy cream and cook, whisking, until amber and thickened, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 tablespoon each vanilla and scotch (optional) and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

30: Hot Buttered Rum Sauce Cook one 14-ounce can condensed milk, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1 cup dark brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking, until the sugar is dissolved, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 4 tablespoons each butter and dark rum, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

31: Salted Caramel Sauce Combine 1 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat simmer, swirling the pan, until dark amber, 10 to 12 minutes. Slowly whisk in 3/4 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon flaky salt.

32: Coffee Caramel Sauce Whisk 2 tablespoons hot water with 2 teaspoons instant coffee. Make Salted Caramel Sauce (No. 31), whisking in the coffee mixture with the cream omit the salt.

33: Smoked Almond–Bourbon Caramel Sauce Make Salted Caramel Sauce (No. 31) off the heat, whisk in 1/4 cup bourbon with the cream omit the salt. Continue to cook 1 minute add 3/4 cup smoked almonds.

Coconut-Lime Caramel Sauce (No. 34)

Coconut-Lime Caramel Sauce (No. 34)

34: Coconut-Lime Caramel Sauce Make Salted Caramel Sauce (No. 31), using 1/4 cup heavy cream along with one 5-ounce can unsweetened coconut cream stir in 1 teaspoon lime juice and use a pinch of salt.

35: Whipped Coconut Cream Refrigerate two 5-ounce cans unsweetened coconut cream 2 hours. Scoop out the solid cream, leaving behind any liquid beat with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar beat on medium-high speed until medium peaks form.

36: Key Lime Pie Whipped Cream Whisk one 14-ounce can condensed milk with 3 tablespoons Key lime juice and the zest of 2 limes. Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar until medium peaks form. Add the condensed milk mixture and beat until combined. Fold in 3 chopped graham crackers.

37: Maple-Walnut Whipped Cream Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with 3 tablespoons each confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup until medium peaks form. Add 1 teaspoon each vanilla and maple extracts and beat until combined. Top with chopped candied walnuts.

38: Brown Sugar–Molasses Whipped Cream Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with 1/4 cup light brown sugar until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons molasses and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and continue to beat until medium peaks form.

39: S’mores Whipped Cream Broil 2 cups mini marshmallows on a nonstick foil–lined baking sheet until toasted, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Let cool slightly. Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with the toasted marshmallows and 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar until medium peaks form. Top with finely chopped milk chocolate and finely crushed graham crackers.

40: Mexican Hot Cocoa Whipped Cream Whisk together 2 tablespoons each sweetened cocoa powder and boiling water until the cocoa is dissolved let cool. Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with the cocoa mixture, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne and a few drops of almond extract until medium peaks form.

41: Cookies-and-Cream Whipped Cream Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with 5 finely crushed chocolate sandwich cookies and 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar until medium peaks form. Top with more finely crushed chocolate sandwich cookies.

42: Tiramisu Whipped Cream Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with 1/2 cup each confectioners’ sugar and mascarpone, 1 tablespoon Marsala wine and 1 teaspoon each instant coffee and vanilla and coffee extracts until medium peaks form. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans and dust with cocoa powder.

Raspberry Whipped Cream (No. 43)

Raspberry Whipped Cream (No. 43)

43: Raspberry Whipped Cream Pulse 1/2 cup freeze-dried raspberries in a food processor with 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar until finely ground. Beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with the raspberry powder until medium peaks form.

44: Cereal Brittle Bring 3 tablespoons light corn syrup and 1/2 cup light brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly stir in 4 tablespoons cold butter (cut into pieces). Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Drizzle over 2 cups crisp rice cereal and toss to coat. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool. Break into pieces.

45: Rocky Road Brittle Make Cereal Brittle (No. 44), using chocolate crisp rice cereal stir in 1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds before baking. After baking, top with 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows while still warm.

46: Sesame Sprinkle Mix Combine 1 cup crumbled halvah, 3 tablespoons each cocoa nibs and nonpareils and 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds.

47: Strawberry-Coconut Clusters Toss 1 cup unsweetened coconut chips with 2 tablespoons each sugar and vegetable oil. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Toss with 2 tablespoons finely crushed freeze-dried strawberries while still warm.

48: Sugar Cone Crunch Toss 8 coarsely broken sugar cones with 3 tablespoons each melted butter and sugar and 1 tablespoon chocolate malt powder. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F, stirring every 5 minutes, until dry, 10 to 15 minutes.

Brownie-Batter Bites (No. 49)

Brownie-Batter Bites (No. 49)

49: Brownie-Batter Bites Pulse 1 cup almond flour in a food processor with 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons each Dutch-process cocoa powder and chocolate syrup and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth and creamy. Spread into a 6-by-9-inch rectangle on a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips. Freeze until firm, 1 hour. Cut into small squares.

50: Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumbs Beat 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup superfine sugar and 2 tablespoons each dark brown sugar and vegetable oil with a mixer on medium-high speed until creamy, 2 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon each water and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat in 1 egg. Add 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt and beat on low speed. Stir in 3/4 cup chocolate chips. Spread 1/4 inch thick on a buttered baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F until deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool. Break into small pieces.

Greek Food Desserts

A long time ago there was a little boy named Matthew who moved with his family to a far away place called Athens, Greece. He had come from a place where ice-cream was plentiful, in fact every Sunday his grandfather would take him and his brothers and sister to Carvel's for ice-cream sundaes and banana splits.

But in Athens the only desserts they could find were gummy things with white dust on the outside from Syros called loukoumia or sticky brown things with nuts called baklava or kataifi. One day little Matthew and his family heard that near Omonia Square there was a zacharo-plastion (sugar shop) that had ice-cream and after some pleading their father agreed to take them. They were so excited. They could not believe that in a few moments they would be tasting ice-cream again for the first time in months. They got to the shop and even though there were only a very few flavors they did not care. Matthew order vanilla and it came in a small glass bowl. He took his first bite. But something was wrong. Yucchh. Orange rinds in the ice-cream. Why would someone go through the trouble of making ice-cream and then putting orange rinds in it? For the rest of his life Matthew hated orange rinds (and fruit cake).

Things have changed in Athens since 1963. For one thing back then people had ice-boxes, not refrigerators. For another, now ice-cream has become the most popular dessert and can be found not just in Omonia Square but in every neighborhood, city, town, island, village and highway truck stop in Greece. Ice-cream became big business and besides the trucks that bring the 30 varieties that each ice-cream company makes to all the freezers and soft ice-cream machines, there are now gelato shops with incredible flavors that make Ben and Jerry's and Baskin-Robbins look like low-class upstarts. In Greece ice-cream is king, at least in the summer. But what about the desserts that were eaten before ice-cream and gelato-mania took over the country? For those who love the old ways you will be happy to know that traditional sweets are alive and well all over Greece as are some un-traditional desserts. The word for sweets is glikia, ne of the most imprtant words in the Greek language for children and adults.

First a little about the zacharo-plastion, the sugar shops that are in every community. Anyone with a sweet tooth will find these places to be a heaven on earth. Crammed full of beautiful looking home-made pastries and candies of all shapes and sizes, cakes, liquors, traditional sweets and ice-cream you can sit down and have a dessert and a coffee or buy some for whoever you are on your way to visit, a Greek tradition. Before European style cafes became popular in Athens, these zacharo-plastions were a center of Greek social and family life and many of the cafes still have that same feel though they cater more to young people in their teens, twenties and thirties. But you can still find the neighborhood zacharo-plastions and like the come-back of the traditional ouzerie, there are traditional sugar shops opening in Psiri and other areas in central Athens. The photo is Kosta who owns the Panarama Zacharo Plastion on the island of Kea which has the most spectacular view of just about any in Greece.

Among the traditional Greek desserts there is the most famous, baklava, made from phyllo dough, ground nuts (walnuts, pecans, or pistachios), lots and lots of honey or a ton of sugar syrup and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is a rolled version of baklava called Saragli. There are even baklavaki which are small packaged baklavas that come in a box of a couple dozen. In the same family is kataifi which has similar ingredients though this is made with a shredded pastry that gives it a Nabisco Shredded Wheat appearance. Galaktobouriko is also made with phyllo pastry but this is filled with a sweet milk custard and sugar syrup. These three are known as the glyka tapsiou or pan sweets because they are baked in a pan.

Yaourti me meli (yogurt with honey) has long been popular among the travelers and the Greeks, but now you can get yogurt with a large variety of fresh fruit, honey and ground nuts that makes a healthy breakfast seem like dessert. Also yogurt with the fruit preserves which are offered to guests and known as glyka tou koutaliou (spoon sweets) because when you normally eat them they are served on a small plate with a spoon and a glass of cold water or a Greek coffee. But they go well mixed in yogurt. In fact even the small packages of marmalade you get at hotel breakfast buffets make a bowl of plain yogurt extra delicious. And in case you have been living on another planet and haven't heard, yogurt is one of the healthiest things you can eat, especially sheep's yogurt which is available but less common than cows. Both can be found in any grocery store or shop that sells sweets.

If you happen to get the above mentioned glyka tou koutaliou (spoon sweets) in their home-made natural form when you visit a Greek home you may be surprised at the variety of fruits they use. Among the most popular are cherry and orange, but you will also see figs, almonds, walnuts and believe it or not even baby eggplants. Another spoon sweet which was one of my favorites, we called a submarine. This was a thick vanilla syrup that was put on a spoon in cold water and then you would eat it like a pop-sickle. You can still buy this in supermarkets and in some zacharo-plastions and it was for a while the closest thing to ice-cream for us. Another great dessert is Risogalo (rice-pudding) which I survived on until they stopped putting the orange rinds in the ice-cream. On Lesvos in the different villages you will find women's cooperatives which sell home made local sweets and glyka tou koutaliou and other traditional food items. The women in the photo are from the Woman's Cooperative of Agiassos.

Loukoumia is a sweet from Asia Minor that is the traditional dessert on the island of Syros which is famous for it. Some of the companies who made it in Smyrna and escaped as refugees when the Turks burned the city in 1922, relocated on Syros which was one of the primary ports for Greece. Loukomia are like gummy-bears in texture but are cut into squares. Some have pistachio nuts in them and they come in a variety of flavors and are coated with powdered confectionary sugar. My first month in Greece was spent on Syros and we ate our share of loukoumia and of nougat which is a white hard flat candy with nuts in it that is sold by venders on the street. In fact if you take a slow ferry that stops in Syros, often these venders will get on the boat to sell loukoumia and nougat. Pasteli is made from sesame seeds and honey and comes in the shape of a candy bar and is one of the traditional sweets of Kea and some other islands I am sure.

The Greeks eat lots of chocolate and in fact the dark chocolate bars by Pavlidis are rated very high by my expert wife. Any zacharoplastion will have chocolate candies for sale in bulk as well as a variety of candy bars. The Papadopoulos Chocolate Cookies which were in the possession of every Greek-American teenage hash-smoker in the late sixties and early seventies are still around and selling well. They also make the Viennese wafers that look like little cigars but are filled with chocolate and hazelnuts that my daughter seems to buy every time we get on a ferry. Halvah, the rich sesame and honey candy that is popular in the middle east can be found in the Athens Central Market, sold by the kilo in a variety of flavors including my favorite which is chocolate covered. You can also find many of your favorite chocolates from home in the neighborhood periptero (kiosk), like Toblerones, Snickers, Mars Bars and even M&Ms. But you should try the Greek chocolates first.

Milopita is apple pie and it tastes like apple pie. Loukomades are deep-fried dough coated in honey sauce. The loukomades shops used to be all over Athens but even just a few years ago we were searching all of Athens and Pireaus to find some. If you want to find some a good place to look is Doris on Kolokotronis Street if that is still around. But I suspect that there will be a loukomades renaissance in the near future. Diples are delicate deep fried pastry rolls that are coated with honey and/or powdered sugar and sprinkled with nuts. The best Diples (and loukoumades they say) are by Theodoros Tarkasis' IDI ZACHROPLASTIKIS at 185 Drossopoulou which is beyond Foikinos Negri in Patission (photo).

After a meal in a restaurant it is customary to have a dessert and often it is complimentary. A typical dessert may be sliced apples and pears with honey and cinnamon, water melon, honeydew melon, cherries, strawberries, grapes, figs, or whatever fruit is in season. Baked halvah which is not to be confused with the candy is also served in restaurants, made from sesame seeds and honey or sugar. I don't know how Greek it is but another restaurant-after-dinner offering is creme-caramel which in case you don't know is like it sounds, a creamy custard and caramel. A very common traditional dessert in the psistarias (grill houses) of Athens is yogurt with honey that is placed in the middle of the table and shared while everyone smokes cigarettes.

On the island of Sifnos they make two or three different kinds of amigdelota, which are almond cookies. My favorite are the baked ones. They make them unbaked too. Both are coated in confectioners sugar. There are also Christmas cookies called melomakarona made with brandy, cloves, honey and unfortunately orange rinds and topped with walnuts which originated in Phoenicia. Karydopitas are walnut and almond cakes usually soaked in honey. Kourambiethes are shortbread cookies coated in powdered sugar and are served at weddings, baptisms and other festive occasions. They can be shaped in balls, crescents or ovals. Koulourakia are crisp semi-sweet cookies that you dip in coffee, tea or hot milk favored with orange and vanilla.

And what about ice-cream? There are gelato shops all over Greece now and you can choose your flavor just like you do at home. Also look for posters with pictures of different ice-cream cups and sticks with American sounding names like Boss, Status, Choco-Magnum, made by the big dairy companies like Delta (just bought by Nestles), Evga, and a couple others. Nearby you will find a big freezer that you can look through until you find the ice-cream that matches the one you wanted on the poster. They even have them on the ferries. Warning: The actual ice-cream may disappoint you in appearance because they very often don't look like the pictures just as when you see a famous actress in person she doesn't look like she does in the movies. But they still taste pretty good (the ice-cream) and I have friends who go to the nearest ice-cream freezer for a Choco-Magnum as a nightly routine. Also in many places these freezers are empty in the winter especially on the islands where it does not pay to send the trucks to refill them because nobody eats ice-cream in the winter except in Athens. Dodoni is a chain of ice-cream shops that are all over Greece too and there are even a few Haagen-das shops.

You can buy ice-cream in almost any cafe or zacharoplastion. A great treat for adults is frappe me pagoto ( Nescafe frappe with ice-cream). Don't get this for your kids or they will be awake for days. Your best bet for super ice cream is Gelatomania in the Psiri section of Athens which tastes as good as it looks. Nowadays, unlike 1963 it is hard to go wrong with ice-cream in Greece. They have definitely mastered it, leaving out the orange rinds, though they can occasionally reappear in chocolate. But the fact that the Greeks have gone from being an ice-cream poor country to turning it into an art form is actually not so strange. My grandfather Giorgos Economopoulos came to America in 1915 and started an ice cream company in Hicksville, Long island which he sold out of his store, the Hicksville Sweetshop on Broadway. He called it Ice-Cream By George. It was the first gourmet ice-cream in America.

Tahini – The Middle Eastern Super Food You Want to Get to Know

One of the staple ingredients in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines is tahini – a velvety, earthy paste made from ground sesame seeds. Tahini is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, lecithin and iron, and is high in vitamin E and B1, B2, B5 and B15. It has 20% complete protein, which is more protein than in most nuts.

It can be enjoyed either in its raw form or combined with other ingredients to create savory dips, condiments, salads, or desserts.

In it’s raw form, tahini has a consistency that is a little thinner than almond butter. It can be eaten with a spoon or as a spread on a piece of bread. Mixed with some honey or date molasses it yields a halvah-like sweet spread – the Middle Eastern version of peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Halvah, in case you’ve never heard of it, is a Middle Eastern sweet delight made of tahini, usually in the form of large slabs. Persian halvah has a softer, smoother consistency. Basic halvah is made from raw tahini, sugar, and vanilla and can be found in supermarkets and in Middle Eastern stores in the U.S. Some other traditional halvah flavors, such as marble (chocolate swirl), chocolate, and pistachio are mostly found across the Middle East and in some Mediterranean countries. In recent years in Israel, halvah, like many other traditional and local specialties, has become a gourmet item sold in boutique and specialty stores. The number of halvah variations you can find is enormous. Nuts, chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, spices, candies, etc. are just some of the creative variations you may come across. The picture below, showing a large selection of halvah blocks, was taken at a halvah store in the Machaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

At home, we like to drizzle raw tahini on vanilla ice cream. It makes it taste like halvah ice cream. Another Middle Eastern dessert we love making at home is Halvah Cookies. It’s a real treat saved for special guests.

In the U.S, tahini is known mostly in its savory form, as a Middle Eastern dip that is sometimes combined with Hummus. But good tahini dip doesn’t need the hummus in order to shine. It is delicious on its own and can be served with raw vegetables, or as a savory spread in sandwiches (with or without hummus). It may also be drizzled over cooked meats and veggies. Tahini is also a key player in baba gahnoush spread. In Middle Eastern cooking, tahini is sometimes added to meat, chicken, and vegetable dishes and baked in the oven. Stay tuned for some of my favorite recipes that feature tahini. But in the meantime, here is my recipe for tahini dip

½ cup raw tahini paste (found in health food or Mediterranean/Middle Eastern grocery stores)
Juice from 1 lemon
¼ tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup water

Combine all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, and mix well until a smooth paste is formed. You may also choose to use a blender to mix the ingredients.

In either case, the consistency should be that of a dip. If the paste is too thick, add more water and stir. If too loose, add a little more of the raw tahini. You can keep the prepared tahini in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. The dip gets thicker the following day and is better used as a spread. If you want to thin it out, add a little bit of water and mix well.

Open your eyes to the taste of sesame, and it's everywhere

Few ingredients cross as many international boundaries as the sesame seed — the ambassador of seeds if you will. Classic but trending (Trader Joe’s currently offers at least 20 sesame items from salad toppers to coconut sesame clusters), sesame oils, pastes and spice blends crowd the shelves of international grocery store aisles, and chefs and home cooks are cooking with them in exciting new and traditional ways.

Sesame seeds originated in Egypt or Persia — the sesame bush with its mini banana-shaped seed pods grows wild in tropical and subtropical regions and is now cultivated globally.

The seeds made their way across continents as ancient and modern civilizations learned to cook deliciously with them, originally as a tasty, clean source of cooking oil. In the Middle East and Mediterranean, bakers coat breads with the seeds, adding protein and crunch to the predecessors of our “everything” bagel and sesame-topped hamburger bun.

Sesame plays a big role in the spice blends of the world. The Middle East brings za’atar to the mix, a blend that combines sesame with tangy sumac and resinous Mediterranean oregano and marjoram that is smeared on everything from roast chicken to pizza these days. Since we discovered dukkah, a flavorful Egyptian blend of nuts, seeds and warm spices toasted together, we always keep a batch on hand to sprinkle generously on roasted vegetables, eggs or grilled meats and fish. At Chicago’s Cellar Door Provisions, bakers roll dukkah inside house-made puff pastry to create a sweet savory snail — the perfect sesame breakfast nosh.

In Japanese culture, sesame or goma shows up in popular spice blends like togarashi (a ubiquitous seven-spice chile table blend that happens to be great on buttered popcorn), furikake (an umami-rich rice seasoning that features seaweed and often dried seafood) and even a simple sesame salt called gomashio. Japanese and Chinese cooks also prize sesame oil (lighter for cooking, darker for seasoning) and black sesame paste to deepen soups, noodle dishes, sauces and marinades.

Sesame plays a big role in Mexican moles, and pops up in Indian cuisine, particularly from the Hyderabad region. Bagara baingan is an eggplant dish whose base is a paste made from sesame, peanuts and coconut, and til ki is a delicious sesame tamarind chutney often served with dosa.

Tahini, created by soaking, crushing and grinding the seeds, has become an essential pantry item, its nutty earthiness adding flavor and texture to classic dishes like hummus and baba ghanoush. The ever-surging popularity of Middle Eastern food has led modern cooks to experiment with using tahini as an ingredient in untraditional ways — it pairs extraordinarily with chocolate in desserts like brownies and chocolate chip cookies. We love it as a sub for peanut butter, in miso or yogurt based dressings, and folded into canned tuna with some fresh lemon juice for a no-mayo version of tuna salad.

Manhattan’s Chelsea Market boasts a business entirely devoted to sesame. Seed + Mill runs a robust tahini production, plus offers tahini goat milk soft-serve and halvah tahini milkshakes on-site. (Halvah is a byproduct of sesame oil production — sweetened and pressed into a classic confection eaten on its own or as an ingredient — it makes a marvelous addition to caramel sauce.)

Benne, the name for sesame in the American South, came to the Low Country from Madagascar via the West African slave and spice trade. The seeds are incorporated into the region’s signature benne wafer cookies.

Sesame’s nutty flavor and unctuous texture effortlessly straddles the line between savory and sweet. At Baobing, the takeout window of Stephanie Izard’s Duck Duck Goat restaurant in Chicago, desserts are based on Taiwanese street snacks. The sesame sundae tops ice cream with a grand slam of sesame caramel, black sesame crunchies, sesame whip and fried sesame balls. Says Izard, “a drop of sesame oil in whipped cream brings this awesome nutty toasted roasty flavor,” while the restaurant’s classic caramel sauce is rendered less sweet and way more interesting with a dash of Chinese black vinegar and sesame oil.

At Chicago’s Loba Pastry + Coffee, Val Taylor makes her pepita crunch bar with an oat base and a caramelized mixed seed and nut topping that gets color and zing from black sesame, the dark version of the more common ivory seed. Caramel and sesame are great friends, as illustrated by the above, plus the sesame brittles and candies of the Middle East. In the Basque region of Spain, sesame seeds are sugared and caramelized to sprinkle on a plate of earthy native sheep and goat cheeses.

We chose Korean-style for our savory sesame recipe below. These tofu and meatballs are typically packed in lunchboxes but we love to wrap them in lettuce leaves smeared with lots of ssamjang, the easy-to-make spicy sesame sauce served with bulgogi and other grilled meats. The tahini chocolate chip cookies lead the way in introducing sesame to the sweet side of the pantry.

Ofek's Thoughts

Here’s real raw halva, and it is as authentic as it gets. I am in Palestine, where halva is sold in every open market by the kilo.

Halva is a sweet sesame confection. This raw version is pretty, delicious, and heavy but dense enough to make you stop after a few bites. A great way to get more flax into my daughter’s diet.

And yes, i am well aware that the mulberries I picked this morning look (and taste) far more orgasmic--and that is perfectly fine. To compete with nature is suicide.


The word halva entered the English language between 1840 and 1850 from the Romanian Yiddish: חלווה ‎, romanized: halva, which came from the Ottoman Turkish: حلوى ‎, romanized: helva, itself ultimately derived from the Arabic: حلوى ‎, romanized: ḥalwá, a sweet confection. [6] [7] The root in Arabic: ح ل و ‎, romanized: ḥ-l-w, means "sweet". [8]

Halva originated in Persia. [9] [10] A reference to halvah appeared in the 7th century, referring to a mixture of mashed dates with milk. By the 9th century, the term was applied to numerous kinds of sweets, including the now-familiar sweetened cooked semolina or flour paste. [2] [6]

Many of the earlier Persian recipes were documented in the 13th century Arabic book Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Dishes), as well as an anonymous cookbook from 13th-century Moorish Spain. Halva was adopted and expanded by the Ottoman Turks, including a sesame-based version, and spread throughout their empire. [6]

Most types of halva are relatively dense confections sweetened with sugar or honey. [ citation needed ] Their textures, however, vary. For example, semolina-based halva is gelatinous and translucent, while sesame-based halva is drier and more crumbly. [11]

Grain-based halva Edit

Grain-based halva is made by toasting flour or cornstarch in oil, mixing it into a roux, and then cooking it with a sugary syrup. Corn is rarely used, more common is semolina, in India called sooji dhokla and in Turkey irmik halva. It's made by toasting semolina in fat, either oil or butter, then adding sweetened milk or sugar syrup to achieve the preferred consistency. [12] Rice flour and coconut milk halva is common fare on the streets of Zanzibar. [ citation needed ] Dairy-based rice flour halva, known as Pathein halawa, is considered a Burmese delicacy native to Pathein.

Raisins, dates, other dried fruits, or nuts such as almonds or walnuts are often added. The halva is very sweet, with a gelatinous texture similar to polenta the added butter gives it a rich mouthfeel.

This style of preparing halva can replace the grain swith vegetables, fruits or cheese. [12] Alternative vegetable-based halva recipes popular in India and Pakistan use beetroots, potatoes, yams, and most commonly carrots (for gajar halwa), mung beans (for moong dal halwa), or bottle gourds (for doodi halwa) instead of semolina. Prepared with condensed milk and ghee, without semolina to bind it together, the end result has a moist, yet flaky, texture when freshly prepared. Other examples include the famous Agra Petha, easily available at Taj Mahal, Agra. [ citation needed ]

Sesame Edit

Sesame halva is popular in the Balkans, Poland, Middle East, and other areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The primary ingredients in this confection are sesame butter or paste (tahini), and sugar, glucose or honey. [2] Soapwort [13] [14] (called ‘erq al halaweh in Arabic çöven in Turkish), egg white, or marshmallow root are added in some recipes to stabilize the oils in the mixture or create a distinctive texture for the resulting confection. Other ingredients and flavorings, such as pistachio nuts, cocoa powder, orange juice, vanilla, or chocolate are often added to the basic tahini and sugar base. [2] [15]

Sunflower Edit

Sunflower halva is popular in the countries of the former Soviet Union, but also in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and other Balkan countries. [16] It is made of roasted ground sunflower seeds instead of sesame. It may include other ingredients, such as nuts, cocoa powder, or vanilla. [17] [18] In 1996 around 4-5 thousand tons of sunflower halva were being produced by Ukraine annually. [19]

Other Edit

Floss halva Edit

Pişmaniye (Turkish) or floss halva is a traditional sweet, prepared in Kocaeli, Turkey, made by flossing thin strands of halva into a light confection. Made primarily of wheat flour and sugar, the strands are continuously wrapped into a ball shape and then compressed. The result is a halva with a light consistency, similar to cotton candy. Floss halva can be found in regular and pistachio flavors, and there are brands with halal or kosher certifications.

A similar pistachio-based version of floss halva is popular in North India. It tends to be slightly denser and is often referred to as patisa or sohan papdi. In Chinese cuisine, a floss-like candy similar to pismaniye or pashmak halva, known as dragon beard candy, is eaten as a snack or dessert.

A raw version of halva also has become popular among proponents of raw food diets. In this version, a mixture of raw sesame tahini, raw almonds, raw agave nectar and salt are blended together and frozen to firm. [20]

Halva can be a snack or served as part of a meal. [1]

Azerbaijan Edit

One regional variant is from Sheki where Şəki halvası halva refers to a layered bakhlava style pastry filled with spiced-nut mix and topped by crisscrossed patterns of a red syrup made from saffron, dried carrot and beetroot. [21] [22]

Greece Edit

Halva is a traditional fasting food among Greek Orthodox who traditionally have food restrictions, especially from meat, on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, for all of Great Lent and other fasting periods. [23]

India Edit

India has many types of halva, some unique to particular regions of the country. It is one of the popular sweets of India usually made from semolina. [24]

The town of Bhatkal in Coastal Karnataka is famous for its unique Banana Halwa which is infused with either whole cashews, pistachio or almonds. This type of authentic halwas are a specialty of the Muslims of this town.

It is speculated that Halva (or Halwa) is associated with Indian traditions and culture, written records of sweets from Mānasollāsa indicate that semolina halvas, the most popular form of halvas in India, were already known in India, for instance, it mentions a sweet called shali-anna which is a semolina based sweet today known as Kesari in South India. [25]

Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu is known for its wheat halwa. Its preparation is a laborious process that "is slowly seeing this sweet disappear." Unlike other sweets, the extra ghee is not drained out but forms an outer layer. This increases the shelf life of the halwa. The unique taste of the halwa is attributed to the perennial Thamirabranai. [26]

The history of Kozhikode Halwa in Kerala could trace back to Zamorin era. Zamorin invited chefs from Gujarat to prepare halwa for their royal feast. [27] They were also granted places to stay beside royal kitchen. This settlement later evolved as sweet sellers street, nowadays known as SM (Sweet Meat) Street or Mittayitheruvu. [28] Kozhikode halwa is made of pure coconut oil, not from ghee. Significant Arab and Middle Eastern influence in Kerala contributed to the Karutha Haluwa (black haluwa), made from rice, is very popular. [29] Kozhikode halwa also builds religious harmony, Ayyappa devotees from neighboring states Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh are buying halwa and chips like prasadam (Sacred food). They distribute them among their neighbors and friends, who consume them with a religious zeal. [30]

Iran Edit

In Iran, halva (Persian: "حلوا" ‎) usually refers to a related confection made from wheat flour and butter and flavored with rose water. [31] [32] The final product has a dark brown color. The halva is spread thin on a plate till it dries into a paste. Halva usually is served at funerals and other formal ceremonies, often with almonds or coconut shavings on the top.

Halva Ardeh is the Iranian term for tahini-based halva, and may or may not include whole pistachios. Ardeh is processed sesame in the form of paste, usually sweetened with syrup. [33] [34]

Israel Edit

Tahini halvah (Hebrew: חלווה ‎) is very popular in Israel and among Jewish people throughout the diaspora. [35] [36] Spelled "halvah" in English, it usually comes in slabs, nearly-cylindrical cakes (illustrated), or small packages, and is available in a wide variety of flavours, chocolate and vanilla being very common. The halvah is almost always parve. Israeli halvah will usually not contain wheat flour or semolina, but will contain sesame tahini, glucose, sugar, vanilla and saponaria officinalis root extracts (soapwort), which are not usually found in other recipes. It is often served as a breakfast component at Israeli hotels, though it is not usually part of an Israeli breakfast, and it is even used in specialty ice-cream. [37]

United States Edit

Halva can be found in ethnic Indian, Jewish, [6] Arab, Persian, Greek, and Turkish community stores and delicatessens. It is increasingly offered by upscale restaurants in some areas. [38] Besides being imported, it is manufactured in the United States, with the largest producer being Brooklyn-originated Joyva. [4] [1]

In Turkey halva is served for special occasions such as births, circumcisions, weddings and religious gatherings. The tradition is for semolina halva to be served at funerals, when someone leaves or returns from hajj, and during Lent. [39]

For this reason, flour (un) halva is also called in Turkish ölü helvası, meaning "halva of the dead". The expression roasting the halva of someone suggests the person referred to died some time ago. In episode 46 of the Turkish TV series Winter Sun (Kış Güneşi), İsmail tells a joke:

"Why do we always eat Halva after a meal of fish? [39] . "So the fish knows it is dead and gone!"

Watch the video: MOST WATCHED Tahini Recipe of 2021! How to Make Tahini at Home (June 2022).