This Turkish delight-like sweet was invented in my home town. As a child I would pass by mithai (sweetmeat) shops and look longingly at the many vibrant, colourful sweets on offer. There was one sweet that always caught my eye – orange, green or pink chewy, rubber-like shiny halva cut into neat squares and topped with nuts and pumpkin seeds. Magical.
- 50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) cornflour (cornstarch)
- 590 ml (20 fl oz/2½ cups) water
- ¼ tsp pink gel food colour
- 2 tbsp ghee, plus extra for greasing
- 1½ tbsp chopped cashews
- 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 300 g (10½ oz/1½ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
- 3–4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
- 1 tbsp dried rose petals, to decorate
- 1 tbsp slivered pistachios, to decorate
- 1 tbsp raisins, to decorate
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.
Cooling time: 1 hour
Place the cornflour in a bowl, add 350ml/12 fl oz/1½ cups water and mix until smooth. Add the food colour, stir and mix well, then set aside.
Grease a large plate with ghee and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a wok-style pan over a medium heat, add the cashews and pumpkin seeds and roast for 30 seconds, or until golden brown. Set aside.
In the same pan, add the sugar and 240ml/8 fl oz/1 cup water and heat over a medium heat to allow the sugar to dissolve. Slowly add the cornflour mixture, stirring constantly. Now turn the heat down very low and keep stirring, the mixture will start turning glossy and coming together. It will thicken slowly, but don’t stop stirring otherwise lumps will form. Now add the remaining ghee and the ground cardamom and mix well.
The mixture should be very thick by now. When the halva starts to leave the
sides of the pan and becomes very shiny, add the roasted nuts and seeds. Turn off the heat and stir. The ghee should start coming to the surface. Transfer the mixture to the greased plate and level it with the back of a spoon.
Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before cutting it into squares and decorating with rose petals, pistachios and raisins.
Recipe from Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani (Murdoch Books, hb, $39.99). Food photography by Joanna Yee. Read more about Pakistani sweets and find more of Sumayya’s recipes here.