Since the birth of 196 F, I was waiting for the day I would publish a recipe from a country that is very dear to me, a country I just came back from 5 days ago and that I always have such a hard time leaving: Israel .
There isn’t really any recipe that is unique to Israeli cuisine. This country is a melting pot, in both population and cuisine. Due to its geographical location and its long history of invasions, exiles and resettlement, Israel has embraced cuisines from different parts of the world, but more particularly Levantine cuisine.
I just spent one month in Israel. While I can’t picture one day without setting foot in my kitchen throughout the year, when I’m on vacation… I’m on vacation! I admit it: I even become really lazy! So for one month, we went to a number of restaurants and we were invited at family and friends for every meal except breakfast!
And that is how I found myself asking the same question wherever I ate, whether to the chefs, employees, family or friends, “what is the most consumed sweet in Israel? And especially for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) ” In most cases, “halva” was the answer!
Before leaving for Israel, Mike suggested to me the great idea to do a theme week for the week of Rosh Hashana and asked us to try to find recipes based on one of the ingredients that decorate this festive table and that we must bless. Sesame, among others, is one of them.
“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our forbears, that our merits increase like sesame seeds.” Bingo! For Vera it will be Israel and halva !
There is not a single region in the world that does not use sesame seeds in cooking and baking . They are very popular in the Middle East where they are ground to make Tahini. Tahini is the main ingredient of Halva.
But beware, the first mistake would be to use the Tahini that is sold in the refrigerated section. This version often includes a small amount of hummus. 100% sesame seeds tahini is essential to the success of this recipe.
I did not invent anything… During my stay in Israel, I went to the two manufacturers of homemade halva that are the institutions of the famous and beautiful market of Jerusalem, Mahane Yehuda. As I was sitting on a stool, I took great pleasure in chatting with one of the bakers of Turkish origin. With great patience, he told me about halva and its secrets. Fortunately, I happen to speak Hebrew!
The word halva (also spelled halwa, halvah, halava, helwa, helava) is a name derived from Arabic حلوى halwa which means “sweet”.
Halva comes from two culinary traditions:
– A Turkish tradition based on tahini that is dense and has a crumbly consistency
– An Indian tradition, although less widespread throughout the world, which consists of semolina and has a gelatinous consistency
I chose to prepare the Turkish halva, as famous around the world as Turkish delights.
This pastry was born in the seventeenth century in Turkey, and more particularly in Istanbul, a city that I love!
After Cypriot Pastellakis or Armenian saree boorma , here is another recipe that includes a sugar syrup that is prevented from turning into hard caramel with the help of a thermometer. A food thermometer is essential throughout the preparation.
Halva can be prepared in a multitude of flavors, from rose to strawberry through vanilla or starfruit! I chose to go with the classic version: pecans & almonds.
I did not allow any member of my family to enjoy my halva before the first day of Rosh Hashana. Only my husband had the right to scrape the bottom of the pan and taste it. “It’s rad”, he exclaimed. Sounds like it will be a success.
To a sweet new year ! Shana Tova to you all!
- 1½ cup tahini (100% sesame paste without any additive)
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 oz. whole almonds
- 1 oz. pecan (or 4 tablespoons chocolate chips)
- Cooking thermometer
- Grease a plastic container or mini silicone molds .
- Roast almonds and pecans. The roasting time is not the same for both, so roast separately. Pecans burn faster than almonds.
- Put Tahini in a water bath .
Put the sugar, lemon juice and water in a saucepan and cook to 240 F (115˚C). At this stage, the syrup is just starting to get a golden color, a bit like a start of caramel.
- Throughout the cooking of the syrup, stir regularly by tilting the pan. Absolutely do not use a spoon.
- Remove pan from heat .
- Pour the almonds and walnuts or chocolate in the tahini and mix well.
- Pour this mixture into the sugar syrup and stir with the spatula to mix everything.
- When the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, which happens very quickly, pour it into the container.
- Pack with the back of a spoon.
- Refrigerate for 48 hours before serving.