When trying to introduce this dish, I had a hard time as there is truly no equivalent in western culture for this type of dessert. It is not a cake, not a cookie, not a pie nor a bread.
I have seen it referenced as a paste, which doesn’t sound terribly appetizing and I have seen it referenced as a brownie, which still doesn’t really fit the bill.
So – let’s just call it Halva! And to make matters even more interesting, different regions in the middle east have different versions of this Halva. This is the Persian version!
This dish is typically associated with and prepared for the Persian Winter Solstice Festival called Shab-e Yalda, various religious holidays as well as funerals and memorials.
- 3 average sized carrots, about 1 pound, grated (course if you would like to see the grated carrots in the final halva or finely grated for smoother and less visible carrots)
- 1 cup sugar, adjust to your taste
- 1 cup of water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1 cup rose water
- ½ teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 cup rose water
- 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried rose petals, crushed
- Place the grated carrots in a saucepan with water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring and dissolving the sugar. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes for finely grated and 30 minutes for coarsely grated carrots.
- In a large pot, heat the butter over medium heat until it begins melting and then gradually add the rice flour while stirring constantly to blend the flour into the butter.
- Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until the mixture turns light golden brown. Reduce heat to low and slowly add the cooked carrots to the hot rice flour. Adding the carrots to the hot pan will create a lot of bubbles and steam, so do this step carefully to be safe.
- Add the saffron-rose water and cardamom and cook for another 15-20 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula to prevent the mixture to burn and crust on the bottom of the pot. I always prefer wooden spatulas over plastic ones when cooking and in the presence of heat. The mixture should turn into a thick and reasonably smooth paste.
- Spoon the halva into a pie dish or a tart pan with a removable ring and pack firmly with the spoon. Allow the dish to cool and then garnish with ground pistachios and rose petals.
- Halva should be covered with a lid or a plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. You can serve halva at room temperature or cold.