Heavenly Halva

My 'little' piece of heavenly halva

It has taken me three days to find the energy to write this post.  Even as I write this, I am having difficulty moving after devouring another gourmet meal.  I will be wearing a roomy dress AGAIN tomorrow, no tight jean waistbands for me! I fully blame my lack of purpose on the perpetual food coma I have been in since my roommate’s mother, Mrs. Dioni Kyriakousi, blazed into our house bringing Greek delights and her master chef skills.  Dioni is visiting us from Thrace (Greece).  Yes, Greece, do I really need to explain further or describe her culinary expertise?

Center of Komotini

Center of Komotini

It has been such a delight to have her visit and the added bonus for me is the delectable Greek dishes and treats she continually cooks for us.  Yesterday, I arrived back at the house after an exhausting day of Saturday shopping in the Oxford City Center (an utter mad scene with bustling Christmas shoppers) to find a lovely note from Dioni imploring me to try a succulent dish of mixed rice and handmade meatballs.  Forget my boring can of soup I planned to heat up! I immediately dropped my shopping bags and heated the scrumptious dinner and devoured every delicious morsel.  Jealous? You should be. I have decided there is nothing else to be done but pack myself in her suitcase when she leaves next week because I will be having serious Greek food withdrawal when she leaves! Do you think security would notice? Manos, the Greek restaurant down the street is no longer going to cut it.  If I can’t smuggle myself in Dioni’s suitcase, I will just have to plan a trip to Greece…Miss. Barry’s Greek Odyssey…I can already picture myself.. a cup of Greek coffee in one hand and a piece of tsoureki ‘Terkenlis’ in the other while lazily watching people stroll by.  But I digress… I must write this post and stop daydreaming!

Yesterday morning, I padded down to the kitchen in my super chic fuzzy pink pajamas and found Dioni about to start cooking something sweet.  I quickly stopped her and raced upstairs to grab my camera, a pad of paper and pen.  I need to learn everything I can from this Greek gourmet goddess!  Being the genius that I am, I quickly realized after we finished cooking that the camera was on the wrong picture setting of twilight… so please be kind to the pictures as they are not at their best.

Dioni taught me how to make halva, a delicious desert and ‘Thrace’ delicacy that took about 30 minutes to make. As you can see from the picture, I didn’t patiently wait for the halva mixture to cool for an hour and immediately cut myself a large sugarcoated piece of halva which melted in my mouth.  I loved that it wasn’t too sweet and really quite good for you… what? Greek olive oil, semolina, almonds (Vitamin E = beautiful skin!), cinnamon (anti-inflammatory properties..)… ok, the sugar content is probably not the best, but all in moderation I say!

Come on…give it a try…you’ll then see what I’m raving about.

What you will need:

3 cups of pure cane granulated sugar

4 cups of water

¾ cups of olive oil (good quality olive oil)

2 cups of wheat semolina (thicker kind)

1 cup of blanched whole almonds (without skin)

2 tsp of ground Cinnamon (or 2 cinnamon sticks)

9 x 5 ½ inches rectangle baking pan

(size of the baking pan is dependent on how thick or thin you want the halva to be)

A trick to remember the quantities and ingredients is to put them into the following order and remember 1,2,3,4:

1 cup of blanched whole almonds (without skin) and ¾ cups of olive oil (good quality olive oil)

2 cups of wheat semolina (thicker kind)

3 cups of pure cane granulated sugar

4 cups of water

1. Combine 2 cups of wheat semolina, ¾ cups of olive oil and 1 cup of blanched whole almonds in a large cooking pan. Turn the stove (hob) to lowest heat. Constantly stir all three ingredients while gently simmering for 20 minutes. You need to constantly stir the mixture to ensure that it does not burn. The color of the semolina mixture should take on a darker brown, almost reddish tint after 20 minutes of constant stirring.

Semolina mixture before it is cooked

Semolina mixture after being constantly stirred for 20 minutes

2. In a separate medium saucepan, pour 3 cups of sugar and 4 cups of water.  Don’t stir; let the sugar settle to the bottom of the pan. Turn the stove on to the lowest heat and simmer the sugar mixture for 10 minutes to melt the sugar. After 10 minutes, stir the mixture and add 2-3 tsp of ground cinnamon (or 2 cinnamon sticks) and stir. The smell of the cinnamon with the sugar is heavenly. After you add the cinnamon, continue to simmer for about 5 minutes and then the sugary cinnamon syrup is ready to add to the semolina mixture.

Sugary Cinnamon Syrup- Yummy!

Sugary Cinnamon Syrup- Yummy!

3. After both the syrup and semolina mixture are ready, pour the syrup directly into the semolina mixture while stirring the mixture to combine the ingredients. Stir the mixture on a low heat for about two to three minutes to combine all the ingredients. You will know the mixture is done when it starts to bubble.  Remove the pan directly from the heat.

4. Pour the mixture directly onto a baking tray (no need to grease it!) and spread the mixture out with a spatula or knife so the top is smooth and level. Leave to cool for about 1 hour. However, if you are as greedy and impatient as me, you can eat the halva warm. After the mixture is cool, cover with cling film and put in the refrigerator.

♥ Tips ♥

If you use cinnamon sticks in the syrup, you can remove the sticks from the syrup before you add the syrup to the semolina mixture, or you can remove the sticks right before you pour the mixture into a baking tray.

Along with cinnamon, try adding orange peels to the syrup mixture for added zest.

If you love cinnamon, you can sprinkle ground cinnamon over the top of the halva mixture directly after spreading it in the baking pan.

This sweet confectionery treat can be a dessert or delicious as an accompaniment to a cup of tea.  I enjoyed mine with a cup of strong thick Greek coffee prepared by none other than Mrs. Dioni herself.



  1. yum yum!

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