Persian halvah is not like the regular halvah you are familiar with. The word halvah refers to several dense and sweet desserts made with nuts or flour. In contrast to the more popular Israeli halvah made from sesame paste, halvah in Iran is flour-based with a hint of rose water. I actually think Persian halvah is much better; it has a soft, play-dough consistency that is very agreeable to the palate. The taste is heavenly and very exotic. Persian halvah is intertwined in many parts of the life of Persian Jews. It is the dish of choice with which to break fasts and is also one of the essential foods included in mishloach manos. It is very easy to make and even easier to eat!
This article appeared in Kosher Inspired, Issue 3, March 2011.
Bring the water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly.
When it has dissolved, turn off the heat, then add the saffron, cardamom and rose water. Stir and set aside.
In another 4-quart saucepan, toast the flour over high heat for no more than three to four minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to avoid burning. Watch carefully; as soon as the flour becomes light brown, reduce the heat to medium and add the oil. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
Add the syrup and mix rapidly. Almost immediately, a bright yellow dough will form.
It is important to mix the dough very well. If too many flour lumps remain, process the dough in the pot with an immersion blender until a thick paste is achieved.
To serve, flatten the dough into a shallow, round platter and garnish with slivered pistachios and/or almonds, or cut into shapes and garnish. Since this dough is very pliable, my children enjoy helping me shape halvah with cookie cutters in myriad shapes and sizes.