In memory of my grandmother - yiaya Soula Lakasas (or YSL as we lovingly refer to her) this fortnight I wanted to bring you her world famous (world = in our house) Halva cake recipe.
The word halva refers to many types of dense, sweet desserts served around the world from South Asia, to the Middle East. Halva can either be flour based or nut butter based. The one we will be referring to today, is flour based.
Before we get to the recipe, a few words about YSL...
My yiayia Soula is my dad’s mum. Sadly she is no longer with us, she passed away 5 years ago after 40 years battling various types of cancers. I am her only granddaughter, so that has always make me super-duper special (sorry boys!)
The fondest memories I have with my yiayia were the times we would stay at her house over the school holidays and she would teach me to cook different meals and desserts.
Her specialty was spanakopita - and I was fortunate enough to be shown how to make this about 6 months before she passed away. My only regret is that I didn’t write down her method properly or get mum to video tape it (when I would ask her for e.g.: how much spinach or feta do you use? Her answer would be I don’t know - this much". She did everything by eye which doesn’t help me lol). However, the spanakopita is a secret family recipe so I’m sorry (not sorry) that I won’t be posting that any time soon!
Unfortunately, she passed away just as I began on this baking journey, so she never got to try any of my creations but I know she would be so proud of everything I have achieved so far.
Now... onto the recipe!
For the halva
* 1/2 cup olive oil
* 1/2 cup corn oil
* 2 cups semolina (1 1/2 cup coarse, 1/2 cup thin)
For the syrup
* 3 cups sugar
* 4 cups water
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 whole clove (optional - YSL says "use it!")
1) Start by preparing your syrup. Add all the ingredients into a pan over high heat and bring to the boil. Boil until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup slightly thickens. Set aside, but keep warm.
2) To prepare the halva, heat the oil in a large pot and add gradually the semolina. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to allow the semolina to absorb the oil. When the semolina starts to bubble, turn the heat down and allow to toast until golden (whilst constantly stirring). The more you toast the mixture for the halva, the darker it will become. So be careful not to over toast it, as the semolina will burn and the halva will become bitter.
3) Remove the pot from the stove and pour in the warm syrup. Stir with a wooden spoon and return the pot on the stove. Cook the halva (whilst stirring) until the mixture thickens and pulls away easily from the sides of the pan.
4) Remove the pot from the stove and cover the halva with a towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. Pour the halva mixture into a pudding mold or into individual bowls.
5) Garnish with cinnamon powder and allow to cool for about 1 1/2 hour before serving.