Greek Halva (Χαλβάς σιμιγδαλένιος) is a semolina pudding that is sweetened with syrup and studded with nuts and raisins. It is a dessert that has Arabic origins but has been adopted into the Greek culture; it is widely served during fasting periods because there are no eggs or dairy in the recipe. It is denser than other types of puddings and has a soft and crumbly texture.
Halva’s semisweet, nutty flavour and crumbly, fluffy texture are what make it a uniquely delicious treat.
To make this dessert, coarse semolina is toasted in oil and then mixed with a syrup flavoured with sugar, honey, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, walnuts and pine nuts, and raisins. Greek halva is the perfect sweet to enjoy during the Lenten period or for those wanting to eliminate dairy and eggs from their diet. It’s also a nice ending to a Greek-inspired dinner.
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Cool: 45 mins
Total: 85 mins
Serves: 8 to 10 people
For the Syrup:
4 ½ cups water
2 ½ cups sugar
½ cup honey
3 small cinnamon sticks
3 to 4 whole cloves
1 (2-inch) piece orange peel
For the Pudding:
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups coarse semolina
¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts, more for garnish
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup raisins
Ground cinnamon, to garnish
Make the Syrup:
In a medium saucepan, add the water, sugar, honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel.
Boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer gently.
Remove the cinnamon, clove, and orange peel from the hot syrup. Keep hot.
Make the Pudding
In another larger saucepan, over medium-high heat, add both the oils and heat until shimmering.
Add the coarse semolina and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
Cook the semolina in the oil until the grains begin to toast and turn a deep golden colour.
Remove the semolina pan from the heat and carefully add the hot syrup to the semolina mixture. The semolina is going to sizzle, bubble, and spatter so be careful not to burn yourself.
Stir in the walnuts, pine nuts, and raisins. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the semolina absorbs all the liquid.
Cover the pot tightly and set aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
Spoon the mixture into a pudding mould or individual ramekins. Allow the pudding to cool to room temperature before serving.
To serve, sprinkle with cinnamon and more chopped walnuts, if desired.
Be very careful when adding the hot syrup to the semolina as the mixture can bubble up and splatter easily, potentially burning you. Remove the pan from the heat, pour in the syrup very slowly, and stir constantly.
Use farina or cream of wheat as a substitute for the semolina.
Instead of walnuts and pine nuts, use toasted almond slivers for the added crunch.
You can substitute lemon zest or peel for the orange peel if you like.
Replace the raisins with dried dates, figs, or apricots.
See also: Spiced Almond and Vanilla Baklava Recipe