According to Joyva’s website, halvah is an ancient treat whose name means “sweet meat” in Turkish. And, that is about right.. Sticky, crumbly and little spongy in texture (as unlikely a combination as that seems), it has the consistency of fudge. The confection is generally made of ground seeds, usually sesame, or various flours. A little googling and cookbook research suggest that it is also commonly made of sunflower seeds in Eastern Europe and some of the former Soviet states, which makes sense given the abundance of sunflowers in Ukraine. This also explains some of the variation in taste I have experienced around Ukraine, where regional versions of dishes reflect the specific cultural influences in that area. Halva is wonderfully sweet and nutty, often studded with pistachios (which I LOVE and someone told is in a Balkan style), other nuts or dried fruits. It is also sometimes covered with chocolate. My favorite havlah is procured from an Azerbaijani family that sells dried fruits at a little bazaar in L’viv.
My search for a tested and endorsed sunflower halvah recipe came up short. So, if Pickle Project readers have one to share, we are all ears!
Photo provided by Grace Eickmeyer, US Peace Corps Volunteer, Crimea. Thanks, Grace!