Greek halva is a semolina based vegan dessert; We have flavoured ours with apples and raspberry
This is an example of what happens when you take basic principles, and then let your imagination run free. The basic principle here is halva-making. Semolina based halva (not to be confused with the tahini based dessert which goes by the same name) is really versatile, and once you understand the basic premise of how to put one together, it becomes very easy to make it your own. We have already shared with you our parents’ basic halva recipe, flavoured with orange and studded with raisins. It’s delicious and it’s a very popular dessert during periods of lent (halva is both dairy and egg free). We’ve also shared with you a vegan chocolate halva, which is a bit more decadent, because, chocolate. But the halva story does not end there.
A simple make-ahead dessert that can be dressed up or down
One of our favourite treats growing up was a creamy vanilla pudding that came from a box. This product, imported from Greece, was one of the only “processed” foods that our parents ever made for us, and we loved it! Whenever we would see the unique blue box with a corn on the cob design on it in the pantry, we got pretty excited. We remember how our parents would mix this pudding powder with milk, cook it while stirring slowly and serve it in shallow bowls. Occasionally they would add a topping of fresh fruit (sliced bananas were a particular favourite) or a spoon sweet they had previously made and preserved. We still see this box of pudding in the Greek grocery store we frequent, and although we have considered picking one up for old times sake, we’re a little worried that our adult taste buds won’t love it as much as we used to. Uncomfortable about disrupting such fond food and family memories, we’ve decided to create something similar, using ingredients we know we love.
There are some pretty hefty debates which exist in the culinary world. Should peanut butter be creamy, or chunky? Is it best to eat your macaroni and cheese with a fork, or a spoon? Is a hot dog a sandwich? And, is bougatsa just galaktoboureko, minus the syrup? We’ll get to that last one in a minute, but first: peanut butter should be creamy, mac and cheese tastes best with a spoon, and a hot dog is barely food…let alone a sandwich (having said that…we love hot dogs).
We cannot begin to tell you how excited we are to share this recipe. Last year, our dear friend Maria popped by for a visit and brought with her a jar of cherry spoon sweet or kobosta that her mom, Κυρία Βασιλική (Mrs. Vasiliki), had made. Anyone who is either Greek, or has invited a Greek into their home, knows that it is rare for us to arrive at someone else’s house empty-handed. It’s not that gifts are required but when they do arrive they are appreciated, especially when they are as delicious as this cherry dessert. Having already tried some of Κυρία Βασιλική’s creations, we knew that we were in for a treat, but nothing prepared us for the happiness found in that jar.
There is something about pie which just makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. The almost meditative act of rolling out the crust, the smell of the pie in the oven, and the sight of the filling bubbling out through the vents on the top crust are enough to make us swoon. Apple pies are a particular favourite because they are appreciated by so many; who doesn’t love a classic apple pie? (If you answered “I don’t” to this question, please send us a private message so that we can talk about it). Although we love baking pies, and have a pretty fail-proof pie crust recipe and technique, sometimes we don’t have the time to get involved in pastry making. So when time is limited but we can’t shake the need for a dessert with a warm apple filling, we get creative…and that’s how this recipe came to be.
You may have noticed that Greeks love syrup. We’ll take a perfectly delicious walnut cake, a delightful phyllo and custard dessert or a simply yummy pear shaped cookie and make them better with syrup. Sticky, and now even more perfectly delicious, syrup soaked cakes are a particular favourite around here (and by here we mean our family, not the internet…although, we’re working on it!).
Today was officially the end of the holidays for us. Kids back at school, parents all back to work, and the merriment of Christmas and New Year’s gone for another year. One of us has succeeded in taking down the Christmas tree and packing away the decorations, while the other is still wondering if the tree should stay up until Easter, decorated for every holiday between now and then, the way it did last year. Despite our home décor differences, both of us agree that it might be time to do away with any leftover sweets and treats. After all, it’s a new year, and for a few weeks at least, we should focus on joining countless others who vow that this is the year that we eat well, and exercise more. But then again, life is short, and dessert is good.
We grew up in a home where certain times, certain events, and certain foods needed to be accompanied by certain special things. So, when guests came over, we put out special bathroom towels. When our parents’ made vegetable speckled rice, it was served in a special soup tureen (don’t judge). During the holidays, the furniture and appliances were covered with festive doilies and cloths (versus the rest of the time, when they were covered with everyday doilies and cloths). And when spoon sweets were served, it was always on little glass plates.
Before our Mia Kouppa launch about 7 months ago, we established a few goals and rules to keep us focused, and on track. Our goals included increasing our reach (that’s blog speak for people seeing our stuff) every week, learning all about Tweeting and Pinning, and being invited to appear on Ellen. Some goals are clearly more attainable than others. As for the rules, we decided that we would post twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays), not talk about our blog incessantly to friends, family and strangers, and never use the descriptors “THE BEST ever”, “THE MOST delicious”, “THE WORLD’S greatest”, in reference to any recipes we shared. How could we make such bold assertions? We are not that worldly…but baklava is!
Baklava is one of the most popular and delicious Greek desserts, and it is also an international favourite; there are variations of this sweet treat in many middle Eastern and European countries. Lucky for us (and you), baklava may be the easiest dessert you will ever make. Truly, there is actually no way you can mess this up. Even if you tried, we don’t think you could ruin it. It is impervious to destruction. It is less baking and more assembling. If you were really committed, we suppose you could burn it, but then you might burn down your whole kitchen, and we don’t think it is worth it, just to prove us wrong.
Greek halva is a simple Greek vegan dessert made with semolina.
Have you ever made a bowl of Cream of Wheat cereal and not been able to eat it right away? Maybe you had to tend to a fussy baby, a pesky telemarketer or a parcel delivery (hurray for on-line shopping). No matter the interruption, when you finally settled in to add milk to your porridge, you were faced with a solid mass of wheat semolina. The fact that, as semolina sits it firms up, is what halva banks on.
The Greek halva recipe which we are sharing here is grain-based and not the same thing as the nut butter or tahini based crumbly dessert with which it is often confused (no kidding, since they both go by the same name!). This halva is semolina based and has a soft and somewhat gelatinous texture. It is a great dessert to pull together when you have unexpected company or a sudden onset of sweet tooth-itis. Because halva is not baked, it can be made quite quickly, and is ready to eat as soon as it cools and retains it’s shape. An added bonus is that halva does not contain eggs or any dairy products, making it a wonderful treat for anyone following a vegan diet or for those abstaining from eggs and dairy during lent.