Facts about halva

We found 14 facts about halva

One of the world’s oldest sweets

Halva is a popular confectionery present in different cultures, especially in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Balkans, and Mediterranean countries. It dates back to antiquity when it was considered a unique delicacy served in royal courts or used as a currency. In traditional medicine, halva was considered rich in energizing and enhancing properties and thus was used as a remedy.

Halva’s cultural and historical meaning is deeply rooted in many societies. It is often consumed during religious festivals, family gatherings, or national holidays. It is commonly used in the production of various desserts and comes in a variety of flavors.

Most likely, halva comes from Persia (Iran).

It proves difficult to deduce the country of origin because different cultures participated in its development and evolution. It’s one of the most popular delicacies, especially in the Middle East, Central Asia, Balkans, and Mediterranean countries, but has lots of devotees around the world.

The mention of halva appeared in the 7th century and referred to a mixture of date puree and milk.

By the 9th century, the term was used to refer to many types of sweets, including sweetened boiled farina or flour paste. Persian recipes were documented in the 13th-century book Kitab al-Tabikh (medieval Arab cookbook by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi), as well as in a cookbook of unknown authorship from the 13th century Moorish Spain.

In Mesopotamia, halva was a mixture of honey and nuts.

In ancient Greece and Rome, sweets similar to halva were prepared with honey, nuts, and sesame seeds, and traded in the Mediterranean area. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire (14th-17th centuries), halva became a widely consumed sweet, popular among the elite, and the commoners.

Halva has a long tradition in Central Asian countries, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and is commonly consumed during important family gatherings. In Jewish tradition, it is known as a confectionery typically served during Hanukkah or Passover (Pesach). Ingredients and the process of production depend on the region.

The composition of a traditional halva depends on the region and the availability of local ingredients.

The original halva consisted of simple ingredients: honey, which was not only a source of sugar but also bonded other ingredients together, sesame seeds, which were one of the key ingredients adding crunchiness and a distinct flavor, nuts based on the availability (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts), and dried fruits, such as raisins, figs or dates. Sometimes, to emphasize the flavor and balance the sweetness, some cooks add salt.

Most types of halva are relatively thick confectionery sweetened with honey or sugar but of different texture.

There are a great many varieties of halva, including sesame, sunflower, grain, and peanut, for instance, Suji Ka Halwa, which is made by toasting semolina in ghee (a type of clarified butter) and sweetened with honey, sugar syrup, or Jagger powder. It looks similar to Farina.

Sesame halva is popular in the Balkans, Far East, and the Mediterranean.

Its key ingredient is tahini (sesame paste), sweetened with glucose, sugar, or honey, with various additions–pistachios, chocolate, cocoa, and vanilla or orange scent.

Sunflower halva is popular in the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria, and Romania.

It’s made with roasted and ground sunflower seeds, instead of tahini. In the 1990s, Ukrainians produced around 4000/5000 tons of sunflower halva annually.

Peanut halva is popular in Argentina.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Greek immigrants in Argentina used peanut butter to create a semi-soft nougat variation called mantecol.

Kocaeli in Turkey produces Pişmaniye, a Turkish-Bosnian delicacy.

It is made from wheat flour and sugar, with added vanilla flavor. It consists of stringy strands rolled into a ball and later pressed. It results in a light-textured halva, reminiscent of cotton candy.

Followers of a raw food diet crave raw halva, made with raw ingredients–tahini, almonds, agave nectar, and salt, mixed and frozen until firm.
Halva is a traditional fastidious dish among Greek Orthodox Christians.
Soapberry extract (Saponaria officinalis) is used in the production of some grades of halva.

It is used to facilitate the foaming of the caramel mass. Because the plant contains poisonous saponins, using it in the food industry was banned in the EU, however, after the intervention of Turkey, which is one of the largest exporters of halva with small traces of soapberry extract, Turkish halva was allowed on European markets as a traditional regional product.

In many countries around the world, but mostly in Turkey, is used as a bread spread.
Despite being a high-calorie product, halva is very beneficial.

Although it contains 468,9 kcal in 100 grams, it has a high nutritional content of beneficial fatty acids. However, it should be avoided by people suffering from diabetes due to its high glycemic index.

Halva is also considered an aphrodisiac and a good-luck charm.

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