Persian halvah is not like the regular halvah you are used to. The word halvah refers to several dense and sweet desserts made with nuts or flour. In contrast to the more popular Israeli halvah made of sesame paste, in Iran, halvah is flour based with a hint of rose water. I actually think Persian halvah is much better! It has a soft, play-dough consistency that is very agreeable to the palate. The taste is heavenly and very exotic. Persian halvah is intertwined in many areas of the life of Persian Jews. Halvah is the food of choice after fasts and it is also one of the essential foods to be given away on Purim for mishloach manot. It is very easy to make and very easy to eat!
Tricks of the trade: It is important to mix the dough very well. If too many flour lumps remain, process in the pot with an immersion hand blender until a thick paste is achieved. To serve, flatten dough into a shallow platter and garnish with slivered pistachios and almonds. Since this dough is very pliable, my children enjoy helping me shape halvah with cookie cutters in a myriad of shapes and sizes. Look at the stars in the picture!
1½ cups water
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
¼ cup rose water
2 cups flour
1 cup canola oil
slivered pistachios and/or almonds
1) To make the syrup, bring water and sugar to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. When sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat; add saffron, cardamom, and rose water. Stir and set aside. 2) In another 4-quart saucepan, toast flour over high heat for no more than 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to avoid burning. Watch carefully; as soon as the flour becomes light brown, reduce heat to medium and add oil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. 3) Add syrup and mix rapidly. Almost immediately bright yellow dough, similar to play dough, will form. 4) To serve, flatten dough into a shallow round platter and garnish with slivered pistachios and almonds, or cut into shapes and garnish.
Yield: 9 inch round halvah