Saturday, October 11, 2008

Semolina Helva (Irmik Helvasi)

This delectable dessert is a traditional Turkish sweet, and probably every Turkish household has its own version. I first had it at a restaurant called Venge in Istanbul's Levant quarter, but I must admit that the result of my recipe, and all other ones I have tried, is very different from the Venge version. At Venge the semolina was fairly coarse, comparable to fine bulgur, and it was loose, meaning not firm and sticky which is the only result I have been able to get, and the way it was served was a delight. They lined a deep plate with hot helva, left room in the centre for a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, then turned it onto a flat plate so you only discovered the cool creamy centre when putting your spoon into it to take the first bite. Most recipes I have seen online, including the one at Binnur's Turkish Cookbook, serves the helva in one big piece, sometimes even with a sauce. I like to serve it as a kind of finger food, and I don't think it needs any accompanying sauce.

Ingredients (ca. 6 servings):
Syrup:
  • 3 1/2 dl full fat milk
  • 2 dl water
  • 1 1/2 dl sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 cardamon pods

Other:

  • 1 1/2 dl peeled almonds
  • 75-100 g butter
  • 3 dl semolina (medium grain)
  • 1 dl sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • small oven tray, ca. 20x20 cm.

How to:

  1. Put all ingredients for the syrup in a saucepan, place on a medium heat. When it reaches boiling point, reduce heat to very low, letting the sugar dissolve and the spices infuse the milk. This should take ca. 15 minutes.
  2. While the syrup is infusing, chop the almonds very, very finely. Try to resist the temptation of doing this in the food processor, since you will end up with almond meal instead of little crunchy bits. Keep 1/2 dl of chopped almonds aside.
  3. Mix the additional 1 dl sugar with the cinnamon powder in a small bowl.
  4. Line the oven tray with baking paper.
  5. In a second saucepan (larger than the one for the syrup), melt the butter and fry the 1 dl of chopped almonds in the butter for ca. 5 minutes until they turn golden, then add the semolina, and fry for another 5 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid the semolina from burning.
  6. Now add the syrup to the semolina-almond mixture. Be careful of spluttering! Stir vigorously to prevent lumping. When the mixture has the texture of a light porridge, stir in the sugar-cinnamon mixture, and keep stirring until all the syrup has been absorbed. This probably only takes 20-30 seconds! The mixture should now be so firm and doughy that it is almost impossible to stir it any longer.
  7. Remove from heat and scoop into the oven tray. Smoothen the top of the helva with a wet spoon.
  8. Sprinkle a little water on the surface of the helva, then sprinkle the 1/2 dl almonds on top, press them slightly into the helva. Finally sprinkle a bit of cinnamon powder on top as well.
  9. Before serving, remove the helva from the tray and cut it into cubes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip: Instead of almonds you can use other nuts, like pine nuts, pistachios or walnuts.

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2 Comments:

Blogger 100 Sentidos said...

I love your recepies!!!

3:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:39 AM  

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