Last week I mentioned that it was my sister Lela’s birthday when I made that European food for her. Well, I also wanted to try something sweet that would be nostalgic to her and the first thing that came to mind was the sunflower halva that she used to love. I guess I should mention, for those of you who don’t know this, that two of my sisters were born in Ukraine. You’d never guess it now though because they seem every bit as Norte Americano as me.
So halva, it’s not a common thing in the States but, as it happens, there are a bunch of Ukrainians that live in the Spokane area which is really close to where we lived in Idaho for a while. I really don’t like Spokane, in fact, I more than dislike it. We have this inside joke that my mom can never drive there again because the few times she has, and I mean very few, she seems to become some kind of cop target and ends up with absurd tickets. My mom is a very good and safe driver by the way so that has nothing to do with it.
But back to my point, there was this one time that we
got sort of lost took a short cut in Spokane and stumbled upon this little Kiev market where they had authentic Ukrainian halva sold by authentic Ukrainians. (I sort of have this thing for accents and languages and I could just sit and listen to them talk all day. So cool!) Anyway, Lela loved it and said it tasted just like when she was little so I’ve wanted to recreate that since we moved here to Chile. I somehow doubt we can stumble upon a Kiev market around here.
You’re probably wondering what halva even is. From what I’ve read halva is made all over Europe but there are many variations. In the middle east they make it with sesame seeds but in eastern Europe (i.e. Ukraine) they make it with sunflower seeds. It’s a really simple candy and it only takes a few minutes to make. I have no idea if this is even close to how they do it overseas but Lela said it tastes like what she remembers so I thought I’d share it for you to try.
- 1 1/2 cups shelled sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 2/3 cups granular sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- pinch of salt
- Line a standard 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with parchment and set aside. Put sunflower seeds into a food processor or blender and blend until very fine like flour.
- Combine sugar, water, and oil in a medium saucepan over medium low heat and bring to a boil. Boil for about 40 seconds then remove from heat and add floured seeds and salt. Stir ingredients together very well and scrape into prepared pan then flatten down with spatula. Lay a second piece of parchment over top and press down firmly for a minute or two until very tightly packed.
- Allow to cool completely at room temp or in fridge before serving.
adapted from healthylif.com