Sipping black coffee with a honeyed sohan caramel is my first grown-up memory of flavour. My mother used to make these from a recipe given to her by a Persian lady who lived in Lahore. The chewy caramel with saffron gracing each bite is made even more distinctive by the crunch of nuts. In Pakistan, we also have multani sohan, a halva made with sprouted wheat, which is said to have links to this Persian one. To me, this version is more pleasurable as the sticky sweetness remains long after that first bite.
- a pinch of saffron threads
- 1 tbsp boiling water
- 180 g (6 oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 60 g (2¼ oz/¼ cup unsalted butter, roughly chopped
- 5 tbsp clear honey
- 140 g (5 oz/1¾ cups) flaked (or slivered) almonds
- 2 tsp rosewater
- vegetable oil, for oiling
- 60 g (2¼ oz/½ cup) shelled pistachios, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp dried rose petals
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.
Soaking time: 1 hour
Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Soak the saffron in the boiling water for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the sugar, butter and honey in a saucepan over a medium heat, but do not mix, and allow the sugar to dissolve. Once completely dissolved, add the almonds and cook until the mixture reaches a triple thread stage or 140°C/284°F on a sugar thermometer.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the saffron and its soaking water. Be careful as the hot caramel will spit. Taking the handle of the saucepan, swirl the contents around quickly to combine, then add the rose water.
Working really quickly, use an oiled wooden spoon to spoon the mixture onto the greaseproof paper, spacing the blobs well apart, then pat them down to form 10–15 small round discs about 10–13 cm/4-5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle on the pistachios and rose petals, then allow the caramels to cool at room temperature for 1 hour or so.
Once cooled and hardened, store in an airtight container for 7–10 days.
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.