Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Falling Cloudberries

By Tessa Kiros

Published 2004

  • About

There are three types of halva that I know of: one is a solid marble-looking block that is sold by the slice; the next is a semolina-type cake with nuts that is baked and then has a syrup poured over; this third kind is also with semolina, but cooked completely on the stovetop and then poured into a cake tin or ring. When cool it is cut into slices and has a very familiar taste and texture to me. You may find it unusual β€” to me its taste holds such history. It is a standard dish that any Greek lady would have a recipe for.


  • 400 g (14 oz) sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • about 4 cloves
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 250 g (9 oz) butter
  • 350 g (12 oz) fine semolina
  • 115 g (1 cup) coarsely ground walnuts


Lightly butter a bundt pan or 11 Γ— 18 Γ— 7 cm (5 Γ— 7 Γ— 3 inch) cake tin. To make the syrup, put the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice and 1 litre (4 cups) of water in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until syrupy. Remove from the heat.

Melt the butter in a large wide saucepan over medium heat and then cook for 3–4 minutes until it starts to turn golden and smells beautifully buttery (this is important for the final taste of the halva). Add the semolina and mix in well with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring and turning the semolina almost continuously so that it turns golden brown and doesn’t burn. Add the nuts and cook for about 5 minutes, until they seem to have taken on a colour and the mixture smells nutty and buttery. Remove from the heat.

Return the syrup to the stove for a minute to heat through. Scoop out and discard the cloves. Carefully pour the hot syrup into the semolina (standing back a bit as it will splash up). The mixture will thicken in the pan, so stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it comes away from the side of the pan. As it starts to look like a smooth thick porridge, pour it into the cake tin. Leave to cool completely, before turning out onto a plate. Serve in slices, sprinkled with a little extra cinnamon if you like.