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Old 24th March 2008, 10:53   #1 (permalink)
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Helva

Sara Croxford has been writing some interesting articles for Today's Zaman on traditional Turkish foods and on the fruits and vegetables of the region. Each article includes fascinating bits of history, Kitchen Chemistry and recipes too. She has already written about Pomegranates, Quince, Börek and Ayran, as well as writing about gourmet shops in Kadıköy and about kitchen utensils, which someone (Shirleyann, I think) posted before.

Today's article is about is about Helva..or halva....or halvah..... etc.....

Halva: a sweet with ceremonial significance
In restaurants and home kitchens, it is common to find both flour halva and semolina-based (irmik helvası) halva, made with water or milk and sweetened with granulated sugar.
The Larousse Gastronomique states that "halva or halvah" is "an Eastern sweetmeat based on roasted sesame seeds, which are ground into a smooth paste (tahin) and then mixed with boiled sugar.


It has a high fat content and, although very sweet, a slightly bitter taste. Other types of halva can be aerated and whipped and cream or crystallized (candied) fruit may be added." Many people's perception of halva (or "helva," as it is known in Turkey) would fit in well with the Larousse definition and, while not technically wrong, by dismissing halva so easily they are missing out on some of the best tasting and simplest sweets and desserts available.

Halva is spelt in as many ways as there are varieties of the sweet: halva for English speakers, halava in Sanskrit, halvah for Hebrew, halwa in Hindi or Arabic and then more. The true origins of halva reflect this collection of languages, all centered around countries east of Europe and, while many cultures lay claim to inventing the delicious food, historians believe that it is an ancient confection originating in the Middle East. In fact, the name halva comes from the Arabic word hulw, which means sweet. In the seventh century hulw consisted of a paste of dates kneaded with milk. In the following centuries, as its popularity spread with the conquering and assimilation of cultures, the term referred to toasted flour or semolina mixed with honey or a sugar, date or grape syrup and made into a paste over a medium heat. Since then it has evolved into a multitude of things, incorporating an assortment of ingredients and cooking methods.

The word and the popularity of the sweet concoctions lead to the name of halvais, the confectioner's caste in India and to the helvacı, or sweet makers, in the kitchens of the Ottoman Empire. The helvahane was the kitchen where halvas were made. The helvahane could be likened to the pastry section in a modern-day professional kitchen. In the pastry section you will find chefs preparing and cooking all manner of sweet temptations, not just pastries, and yet this is how it is identified. So, too, was the helvahane responsible for the preparation of a vast array of foods and beverages, including preserved fruits, jams and sherbets, as well as pickled vegetables. The present-day peltes, sweets made from fruit juice, starch and sugar, originate from the paludes made in the helvahane.

From as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, aşure, baklava, kadayıf, muhallebi, zerde and halva were enjoyed by those eating from the palace kitchens (see box). Özge Samancı, a food historian and specialist in Ottoman palace cuisine, explains that the role and responsibilities of the helvahane -- and thus of the helvacı başı, or head halva chef -- were broader than those of any modern day kitchen. "The helvahane acted as pharmacy to the palace, with medicines of the time carefully prepared under the supervision of the helvacı başı," he explains, adding that all manner of common ailments, including impotency, were treated with remedies from the kitchens. The belief in the link between food and health is perhaps born out by the fact that one of the first Turkish-language cookbooks was translated from Arabic by Muhammed bin Mahmud Şirvani (1375-1450), who was a physician to Sultan Murat II (1421-1451).

Despite these varied responsibilities, the kitchen, chefs and an incredible number of sweetmeats and desserts were identified by derivatives of the name "helva." The palace kitchen records show that during the circumcision feast of Sultan Süleyman's (1494-1566) sons in 1539, 15 different types of halva were served. While the whole populace would be invited to celebrate the occasion, halva was more than likely only served to people of significant standing within the empire or to those the sultan was eager to impress. Halvas were a common and seemingly compulsory item on the menus for festivals, weddings and circumcisions.

Samancı explains: "Since the earliest days of halva, it has held ceremonial significance. Various rituals are associated with the making of halva. Most commonly nowadays, halva is made in commemoration of a person's death and shared among friends, relatives and neighbors. While stirring the semolina or flour, prayers are said quietly for the deceased person. In accordance with the tradition of remembrance on the seventh and 40th days after a death and on every death anniversary, halva is again made and shared." Halva is also made and shared for births and religious holidays. It may be made to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (Mevlid Kandili) or on other occasions during the Islamic calendar year.

The halvas of the Ottoman era were made with flour or wheat starch. Recipes recorded in the 15th century include exotic halvas of butter, flour, saffron, honey, poppy seeds, pistachio and rosewater. Honey featured regularly as a sweetener. These days the most common halva found in restaurants is semolina-based (irmik helvası), made with water or milk and sweetened with granulated sugar. In home kitchens, it is common to find both semolina and flour halvas. Semolina halva usually has a granular texture, while that made with flour is more solid and can be rolled into balls. As with the early days, the variations are numerous and most cooks will distinguish themselves with a slightly different ingredient, method or presentation. Halva made with tahini is most commonly bought from shops and is not referred to frequently in historical texts. The crushed sesame seeds are formed into blocks and sold by weight. Tahin helvası can be found with pistachios, almonds or walnuts. It can be flavored with chocolate or caramel or can be served plain. Its texture is firm and can be a little chalky or fudgy. Another type of halva found today is kağıt helvası, which literally translates to paper halva, but is better described as a wafer. It is sold in sweets shops and by street vendors. These vendors often weave their way through backed-up traffic with their plastic wrapped, plate-sized goods stacked high. Kağıt helvası can be eaten plain, straight from the packet or with a scoop of ice cream.

Where to try halva in İstanbul?

It is difficult to find flour halva in any restaurant, so if you are not prepared to make it yourself, ask your best Turkish friend or their mother to make it for you. Some specialist delicatessens do sell flour halva and it is generally presented in almost fist-shaped mounds. Semolina halva is easier to find, be it made with water, milk, pine nuts or almonds. It has become a culinary custom of Turkey to follow a meal of köfte with sütlü irmik helvası (semolina halva made with milk). The halvas based on tahini and sesame seeds can be found in any number of shops that sell confectionary.

Chemistry from the kitchen

Semolina is the endosperm, or heart, of the durum wheat kernel. Semolina is a natural by-product of milling to produce flour. It is a gritty, rough particle approximately 0.25-0.75 millimeters in diameter and consists primarily of starch, as well as protein, iron and B-group vitamins. Since durum wheat is a high-protein flour, these semolina grains tend to be coarser and require more cooking than other grains separated in the milling of softer, lower-protein wheat, yet still called semolina in both the UK and the US. The former are a mainstay in gnocchi and pasta from Italy and couscous in northern Africa. Couscous grains are, in fact, a pasta made by wetting semolina with water, rolling and shaping it and then coating it with fine wheat flour. The addition of a sprinkle of water encourages the starch and protein within the endosperm to become sticky and allows the particles to adhere to each other, thus becoming larger, with a diameter of approximately 1 millimeter. As this small spherical pasta has not been finely ground or par-boiled, it requires boiling to soften, but can be used as a savory alternative to rice, bulgur or other pasta. Semolina is more suited to making pastas, placing on a pizza stone before baking or for puddings such as halva.
[EASY RECIPES]

Semolina halva with milk and almonds

Semolina halva is often prepared with pine nuts; however in the earliest days of the nomadic Ottoman kitchens, halva was made with flour, sugar, butter, milk and almonds.

Ingredients: 250g semolina, 250g granulated sugar, 100g butter, 450ml full-fat milk, 50g almonds, chopped or slivered Method: 1- Melt butter in large frying pan.2- Add semolina and almonds and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly (approximately 10-15 minutes) until both semolina and almonds are well browned. 3- Place milk and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil, ensuring all sugar has dissolved.4- Over a very low heat, slowly add milk syrup to semolina and stir thoroughly. 5- Cook until the mixture is thick, then cover and continue to cook over medium heat for five minutes. 6 - Turn heat off and leave covered for 10 minutes. 7- Gently stir the halva with a fork to separate the grains of semolina and serve warm.

Here is the link to today's piece and where you can find her earlier articles;

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/de...ay&link=137059
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Old 24th March 2008, 11:25   #2 (permalink)
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Wink Re: Helva

Sorry, I got half-way through it, and then lost the will to live
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Old 24th March 2008, 11:56   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Helva

Quote:
Originally Posted by KayaKoyuOldBoy
Sorry, I got half-way through it, and then lost the will to live
Sorry KKOB. You can't please all the people all of the time.

I get the distinct feeling lately that unless you happen to be one of the TLF In crowd you are not welcome on here.

Guess I'll just push off then and leave it to the rest of you.
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Old 24th March 2008, 12:09   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Helva

that was a great article....never mind Victor Meldrew
i dont think there is an in crowd on the forum...or if there is you are in it...and he isnt

ive had a lovely hot pudding made from Helva ingredients..semolina boiled up sugar..and when it ready the put in chunks of the white cheese they use in the künefer sweet....sounds awful...looks awful..but its yummy.
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Old 24th March 2008, 12:13   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Helva

I think it was good posting too! Do you make Helva Shirly? I love it and wonderded how easy it is to make? Sounds straightforward enough so think i might give it a go!
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Old 24th March 2008, 12:31   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Helva

I've made this but in a slightly different way, there are so many different recipes/methods for this halva/helva etc etc, and lets not go down the route of the greeks invented it. Well not in my house anyway!!

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Old 24th March 2008, 16:15   #7 (permalink)
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Unhappy Re: Helva

KKOB everyone has a right to take part and offer info that might be interesting to others, if it is not of interest to you, is there any need to be rude and make a comment about it? Would it not have been more polite to just close the post and find something else to read. as you can see from the replies it was of interest to others even if not to you. Its a shame now that Dalaman Deli has taken the decision not to be a member any longer because of your rude comment
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Old 24th March 2008, 19:09   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Helva

Quote:
Originally Posted by KayaKoyuOldBoy
Sorry, I got half-way through it, and then lost the will to live
Somone asked a little while ago why people seemed to join the forum, make a few posts and disappear. Don't have to look very far for the answer when someone makes a spiteful comment like this. If you don't want to read a post, or it doesn't interest you, then move on.
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Old 26th March 2008, 07:12   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Helva

I think that KKOB needs to learn to read more quickly. KKOB you are going to get left behind if you can only read slowly - I mean, half an hour to read one paragraph!!! Also, I am holding tact classes in the valley and you can be my first student!!
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Old 26th March 2008, 07:29   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Helva

I have to say that KKOB is not far off the mark. But at the same time it was a good article and Dalaman Deli cannot be held responsible for the writting of the article. Why did the writer not put the recipe first and then give us the history?

I was thinking whilst reading that the writer had forgotten to put it in. But where is it? the last paragraph!! It is an interesting article but I would have prefered to know what was required to make it first, then I could decide whether to read on.

I have also found Dalaman that if you put the link first then the article for those that cannot access it is better, especially on long articles, it gives the reader a choice read the forum article or go and read the original.

Andy

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