Festive Helva

Un helvası

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Classic Turkish Cooking

By Ghillie Basan

Published 1995

  • About

This delicious flour helva with pine nuts is usually prepared for happy events such as the birth of a child, or a wedding. Concentration is needed for this recipe — at the beginning, you have to stir the contents of two large pans simultaneously.


  • 6 oz/175 g butter
  • 6 oz/175 g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 2 oz/60 g pine nuts
  • 8 oz/225 g sugar
  • 1 pint/600 ml milk
  • ¼ pint/150 ml water
  • icing sugar for sprinkling


  • Sift the flour on to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Melt the butter in a large heavy-based pan. Shoot in the flour and stir into a thick roux. Cook for 4-5 minutes, to colour a little. Stir in the sunflower oil to bind the roux to a smooth paste. Cook until it easily leaves the sides of the pan and turns camel-brown. Stir in the pine nuts and cook for 4-5 minutes until they turn golden.
  • Meanwhile, keeping an eye on the flour mixture, stir the sugar and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the syrup coats the back of the spoon.
  • Pour the water into the roux in the other pan and stir madly (wear an oven glove to protect against the steam). Pour in the hot milk syrup and again stir vigorously, pressing the balls of roux against the sides of the pan until the mixture forms a thick, gooey paste. Punch the paste with the wooden spoon, flipping it against the sides of the pan, and cook until the pine nuts start to fall out of the mixture, which should be soft and spongy with a nutty taste.
  • Reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pan with a dry dish-towel and press the lid firmly on top — for safety, make sure you lift the towel flaps up over the lid. Leave to steam gently for 15-20 minutes, to extract the moisture. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  • To serve, scoop the helva out of the pan in thin layers, on to plates, and sprinkle with icing sugar. Eat with a fork, pressing the back of it down into the soft, spongy helva to attach it.