• A traditional (and very easy) Turkish sweet - almond helva. (Murdoch Books)

Well worth the trouble of making, this sesame–almond paste is a simple and delicious treat.






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (18 votes)


  • 150 g (⅔ cup/5½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 125 g (⅔ cup/4½ oz) fine semolina
  • 65 g (¼ cup2¼ oz) tahini
  • 50 g (½ cup/1¾ oz) ground almonds

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time: overnight

Put the sugar and 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) water in a medium, heavy-based saucepan, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Place over medium heat, and cook the syrup until it reaches 115°C (240°F; soft-ball stage) – if you do not have a sugar (candy) thermometer, wait (not long) until the boiling bubbles become larger. Turn off the heat, and add the semolina, then incorporate the tahini and ground almonds, and mix to a smooth paste. Spread out the paste in a small dish (the helva should be a good 3 cm/1¼ inches deep), allow it to cool and set aside in the refrigerator to chill overnight. Cut into slices or small squares for serving.


Recipe and image from Istanbul Cult Recipes by Pomme Larmoyer (Murdoch Books, hb, $49.99).

For more on the wonderful variations of Turkish helva, read this article about Helva of the dead.