I’ve mentioned before how recipe names morph, which can make research tricky. Early in April, in response to a question submitted here, I wrote about a wheat pudding called colva or kolva. The one reliable reference I had found was a 1922 survey on nutrition, thoroughly secular and with no discussion whatsoever of religion or culture. I presented the recipe here – I couldn’t dig deeper at the time – and that was that. But I wasn’t satisfied.
And with good reason, as it turns out. A little more work on the name and I got to the root of near-eastern wheat puddings: colva… kolva… kholva… khalva… halva. Halva! Of course. But halva is just sweet sesame paste, right? Nope. According to Wikipedia, ‘halva’ (or halvah or halavah or halweh, etc.) is the Arabic root word for ‘sweet’, period. Candy. And as a generic it applies to a huge range of grain-based sweet confections “across the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia, the Balkans and the Jewish World.” Who knew?
In my house (in America) halva was just one thing – crumbly, bittersweet sesame paste candy – but halvas turn out also to be made from semolina, bulgur, sunflower seeds, carrots, even gourds, and often with the addition of pistachios, almonds, walnuts or peanuts. Continue reading