Helva is sold by specialists because it can be a little tricky to make at home (it needs to be stirred constantly, but covered at the same time). There are many variations; Nurdane gave me her family’s recipe using flour and butter.
A formidable little Turkish crumble!
- 200 g (scant 1 cup/7 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 200 g (7 oz) butter
- 200 g (1⅓ cups/7 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- a good handful of crushed walnuts or whole pine nuts
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
First, make a syrup. Put the sugar and 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) water in a small saucepan. Place the saucepan over low heat, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, still stirring, and skim off any white froth that forms on the surface. Add the lemon juice and continue to cook, stirring, for a further 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, little by little, stirring until you have a roux and the taste of the flour has been cooked out (allow about 10 minutes). Add the nuts, continue stirring for 1 minute, then carefully add the syrup (watch out for spatter). Stir again, then cover and continue cooking over very low heat for 5 minutes.
Spread and pat down the still-hot paste on a plate or in a small tin, and cut the helva into diamonds or small squares. Leave to chill in the refrigerator overnight. Serve cold, cut into small squares.
• This recipe is for a crunchy un helvasi. For a softer version, turn off the heat after mixing the sugar into the mixture.
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.