Cevizli Irmik Helvasi – Semolina Halva With Walnuts

I need a getaway, urgent, seriously! Any suggestions, around Istanbul?

Finally today, sun is up and spring seems to have arrived! Yesterday, I was watching the weather report (yeah I am watching the weather report, that’s how serious my need to have a break is) and apparently it’s 25 degrees Celsius in Kiev!?! What the heck! What’s wrong with you Istanbul! Yet, I guess I am the only person to catch a cold and get an almost 2nd degree sunburn on the very same day!

Enough with the weather, I know, my dear beloved reader… In coming weeks I’ll make it up to you with stories from my soon-to-be-planned weekend vacation, promise.

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Tahin Helvasi – Tahini Halva

No no, I didn’t make this one. It’s a store-bought sweet here in Turkey, called Tahin Helvasi. It’s made of tahini (sesame paste), egg whites, sugar, soapwort, pistachio nuts. It’s a long and tiresome process, ingredients are processed seperately, then churned, then beaten and finally kneaded into a dough before becoming that delicious, crumbly, crispy helva we know. Here are a few links to videos of its production process:

video 1- the churning step- http://vimeo.com/6714556

video 2- beating stage- http://vimeo.com/6714660

video 3- kneading the halva-final step- http://vimeo.com/6714805

 

 

Saray Helvasi – Royal Halva

Halva is the generic term for flour and/or butter and nuts based dense sweets in various world cuisines including Ottoman cuisine. This one is called royal halva and it is made of butter, wheat flour, caster/icing sugar and ground nuts (almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts). It obviously tastes somewhat like shortbread cookies, as they both contain the same ingredients, but method of preparation is what separates the two.

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Sakizli Muhallebi – Mastic Pudding

I just realized that I have put up only a few dessert recipes. I need to add more. Especially in Ramadan, I crave sweets, after iftar. I am sure there is a medical explanation to this, but when the cravings are here, all I need is sugar, no explanations for me, thanks. I totally love milk-based sweets and they constitute an important role in Ottoman cuisine with their calming and subtle flavors.

Mastic pudding –sakizli muhallebi- derives its name from mastic gum. I know all it reminds you is construction supplies but trust me there is a lot more to this word. Mastic gum, also called damla sakizi (droplet gum) in Turkish, with its exquisite aroma is exuded from the bark of the mastic tree. The tree is native to the Aegean Island of Chios. According to the hearsay, during the Ottoman rule of Chios, mastic was worth its weight in gold. Apart from the culinary uses of its deep, woody and slightly bitter aroma, mastic gum has been used as a medicine since antiquity. It contains antioxidants, and also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, it’s also good for your gums and teeth, no wonder my mom used to chew mastic gum once or twice a month. To me, she was a crazy woman back then, for gnawing on such a hard and intensely flavored matter.

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