Halva with Semolina

Usually a treat during periods of fasting, halva is an easy to make dessert that requires no baking.

2 cups “simigdali hondro” semolina (coarse ground durum wheat)

5 cups water

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 cinnamon stick

5-7 whole cloves

Two inch strip orange peel

1 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped or sliced as you prefer

Ground cinnamon for dusting

Sliced almonds for decorating

For the syrup, in a large, deep pot, boil the water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick, whole cloves and orange peel for about five minutes, reduce heat. Meanwhile, heat the cup of oil in a large sauté pan until it shimmers, reduce heat to medium. Add the semolina, stirring with a wooden spoon and cook until it absorbs the oil and colors lightly or as golden as you prefer. Add the almonds and cook until they too are toasted and lightly colored. Remove the cinnamon stick, whole cloves and the peel from the syrup and add the toasted semolina and nuts to the pot. Stir until the syrup is absorbed and the mixture no longer sticks to the sides of the pot or to the wooden spoon. Switch off the heat and cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and the lid of the pot. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. Remove the lid and the kitchen towel and transfer the halva to a tube pan or Bundt cake mold and press in with a rubber spatula. Unmold onto a serving plate and sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon and decorate with additional sliced almonds. Alternatively, after the halva has rested in the pot, it may be transferred to custard cups and unmolded onto dessert plates for individual servings dusted with cinnamon and decorated with sliced almonds as above. Allow the halva to cool completely before slicing and serving. Pine nuts or a mixture of walnuts or almonds and pine nuts can be substituted for the almonds.