Food

How to make halva with pistachios and rose petals: the perfect homemade Valentine's gift

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If you’ve ever made your own hummus, you’ve probably wondered what on earth to do with all that leftover tahini (#firstworldproblems, we know). Masters of Middle Eastern cuisine Honey & Co have the perfect solution: halva. There are many types of halva, but this version uses sesame paste to make crumbly, fudge-like squares flavoured with pistachio and rose that will have you hooked at first bite. Make some to give as a unique Valentine’s gift or keep it by your desk for a mid-morning sugar boost, best enjoyed with a hot black coffee.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes, followed by two hours’ cooling

  • 50g pistachios, shelled
  • 1 tbsp dried rose petals
  • 200g tahini paste
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 100ml water

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6. Lay the pistachios in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool, then roughly chop and set aside.

Step 2: Line a small plastic container or shallow square baking tin with baking parchment and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and rose petals. Fill a large bowl with cold water, ready to chill the sugar syrup pan when it comes off the heat.

Step 3: Place the tahini paste in a small saucepan and set on a low heat. Stir constantly while it thins and becomes shiny. Once it feels quite warm when tested against your lip, remove from the heat. Keep warm in the pan.

Step 4: Put the sugar in a separate, heavy-based pan, pour in the water around the sides and mix lightly to create a damp paste. Moisten your finger or a brush with some water and run it around the sides of the pan to clean away any sugar crystals. Place on a high heat and bring to the boil, then cook for five minutes or, if you have a sugar thermometer, until the mixture reaches the ‘soft-ball’ stage (118°C). Take the pan off the heat and plunge it into the bowl of water to cool it rapidly from the outside. Just don’t let the water overflow into the sugar syrup.

Step 5: Transfer the warm tahini to a wide bowl and stir with a spatula. Slowly pour in the sugar syrup, stirring all the time. The halva will start to thicken immediately and will continue to do so as it cools. Keep stirring and when it gets really thick, get rid of the spatula, put on some disposable gloves (if you have any) and use your hands to mix and knead the halva as you would dough.

Step 6: Once it is as thick as marzipan, transfer to the lined container or tin containing the pistachios and roses. Press down to flatten, then cover and place in the fridge to cool for at least two hours before cutting into 36 small squares (about 2.5cm x 2.5cm).

Eat with...

Gewurztraminer 2014, £8.99, The Co-operative
Gewurztraminer is a grape that screams of rose petal flavours, so it’s a no-brainer pairing. This has a ginger lusciousness and is a little sweet to pair well with the sugary halva.

From Honey & Co The Baking Book by Sarit Packer & Itamar Sulovich (£25, Saltyard Books, waterstones.com), out now

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