06 May Semolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots

Semolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.comSemolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.com

I’m still over here pecking away at vacation photos, trying to pick my favorites, caught somewhere between my perfectionism, indecisiveness and non-stop schedule of work, weddings and more work. I know I said they would be up soon, and they will be, just not quite as quickly as I’d hoped. It almost seems like a dream, those two weeks, so as you might imagine choosing the images that best represent my memories has proven quite tough.

So, in the meantime I have a peace offering for you guys in the form of Turkish dessert. Which, I assume y’all might enjoy more than my vacation photos anyway, because dessert is why you’re here in the first place, right?

Semolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.comSemolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.comSemolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.com

We visited Turkey with a close friend who grew up in Istanbul, and while he now lives and works in Austin, his family still calls the city home, and having our own “local guides” proved to make all the difference in experiencing the local culinary scene. Devrim is a fellow dessert enthusiast, and his love for all things sweet runs [almost] as shamelessly deep as my own. This, combined with the pull of baklava shops on nearly every street corner, resulted in at least one dessert to end every meal and on most days, several more.

The temptation of flaky, sticky phyllo dough, dripping with gooey sugar syrup and covered with the brightest green ground pistachios I’ve ever seen was intensely irresistible. Not to mention the availability of an impressive assortment of French-style pastries, including the Turkish take on profiteroles – a delicate cream puff nearly identical to the Parisian version but drowned in a pool of chocolate sauce at a level of excess that would likely make most French cringe in disgust. But hey, chocolate in excess is always a win in my book. Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store, quite literally, and since #vacation, there was no holding back.

Semolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.com

I would estimate we averaged somewhere between 5-6 desserts on most days, including but not limited to lunch dessert, dinner dessert, and dessert “snacks” peppered throughout the day just to keep our strength up. I even ate dessert for breakfast one morning, and while I posed it as necessity, I’ve woken up thinking about Turkish delight most mornings since.

And while this may seem like a bit much (fat Americans, anybody?), trust me, the Turkish take their sweets very seriously, so our frequent overindulgence and subsequent praises for the pastry chef were welcomed with warm enthusiasm wherever we went. Thank goodness we were walking ~10 miles a day, otherwise things might have gotten well, tight.

Semolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.com

This Semolina Halva is based on a version that we had one evening after one of many seafood-filled Raki-style meals – a long, slow dinner composed of multiple small dishes that are meant to be savored over the span of several hours in between sips of Raki, the Turkish take on anise-flavored liqueur. This particular night we snacked on Ezme (a spread made from tomatoes, peppers, onions and spices then drizzled with tart pomegranate molasses), tiny fried sardines, whole red mackerel, Mediterranean sea bass, and triangles of sharp feta cheese (perhaps the most traditional Raki pairing) before, of course, landing on dessert. First, perhaps in an effort to limit ourselves, we tried an elaborate fruit plate with banana, melon, strawberries, quince, berries and pineapple, and then, because we needed more, Semolina Halva.

Known in Turkish as Irmik Helvasi, on our first meeting it was served warm with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream, and sprinkled with toasted nuts, though since I was several Raki deep, I cannot remember the variety. I was immediately smitten with the unique contrast of texture and flavor brought about when the warm, toasty semolina swirled with the melting ice cream. In it’s simplest and most popular form, it’s essentially dessert couscous, cooked until fluffy, sweetened with sugar syrup and, traditionally served with pine nuts and ice cream.

Semolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.comSemolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.comSemolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots // butterlustblog.com

My version is nearly identical to the version to which I was first introduced – toasty, soft beads of semolina, dressed in sweet syrup and warm spices, and peppered with crunchy toasted almonds. To add an extra dimension of flavor and texture I added apricots that have been plumped into juicy submission in a bath of golden honey syrup that, when spooned over ice cream, swirls together resulting in a decadent, lightly fruity sauce that soaks into the halva and creates the perfect consistency for scooping into your mouth as quickly as possible. Enjoy!


Semolina Halva with Honeyed Apricots


    For the semolina halva:
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup semolina
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • For the honeyed apricots:
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup honey, plus more for drizzling
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving


    For the semolina halva:
  • In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the milk, water and sugar. Heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • In another medium saucepan or pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the semolina and cook, stirring constantly, until semolina is lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the milk mixture carefully, it may spit a bit, and continue stirring until well combine. Cook for another 3-4 minutes then cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until the semolina absorbs the liquid becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted almonds and cinnamon.
  • Cover and let stand for at least 15 minutes if you'd like to serve warm, or until it comes to room temperature.
  • Beeta @ Mon Petit Four
    Posted at 11:31h, 06 May Reply

    This looks gorgeous, Katie! I’m Persian so I’ve enjoyed a variation of Halva many times before (made of flour and pistachios), and it’s such a delicious treat. I like how yours has cinnamon and was dressed up with the apricot topping – scrumptious!
    Beeta @ Mon Petit Four recently posted…Red Wine Apple Pear GaletteMy Profile

    • KWahlman
      Posted at 10:47h, 07 May Reply

      Thank you, Beeta!

  • Mary Ann | the beach house kitchen
    Posted at 19:50h, 06 May Reply

    Katie this Halva looks wonderful. I have never tried halva but I love your version with the honey apricots and cinnamon. It is definitely on my list of new things to try!
    Mary Ann | the beach house kitchen recently posted…easy egg bake breakfast sandwich with pico de galloMy Profile

    • KWahlman
      Posted at 10:47h, 07 May Reply

      Thank you, Mary Ann! You should definitely try it – it comes together so easily and it’s so different from anything we have on this side of the Atlantic!

  • Michelle @ Hummingbird High
    Posted at 20:24h, 06 May Reply

    5 to 6 desserts every day? You are a beast!!! I love it. So jealous of your travels. This semolina halva looks delicious!
    Michelle @ Hummingbird High recently posted…Chia Seed Yogurt Pudding with Champagne Roasted Rhubarb, Kumquats, and Pistachios + A Giveaway!My Profile

    • KWahlman
      Posted at 10:45h, 07 May Reply

      Haha, I wish I could say I was joking. But at least, for the most part, they were shared. 🙂 You took a pretty amazing trip this year too, so let’s just agree to be jealous of each other!

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  • Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures
    Posted at 08:43h, 11 June Reply

    You know how to vacation! The texture of this looks delicious!
    Laura @ Laura’s Culinary Adventures recently posted…Dried Cherry and Almond Chocolate PancakesMy Profile

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