Turkish desserts were unmistakably one of our favorite parts of traveling in this country. With its unique texture and fudge-like taste, halva quickly became a favorite. Here is the recipe to make home made halva, which can be mixed with pistacios, dried fruit or dipped in chocolate.

The first two recipes are for the sesame (or tahina) halva and the second is a more gelatinous dessert called semolina halva.

Tahina Halva #1


1 c. sesame tahini
1/4 c. honey
1 c. powdered soymilk – dry
1 tsp. vanilla
Pecan meal


Cream until smooth tahini and honey. Add soymilk powder and vanilla. Stir well. Should be stiff. Sprinkle pecan meal in bottom of 8 inch square pan. Press candy mixture into pan. Sprinkle top with pecan meal. Refrigerate, cut into squares.

Tahina Halva #2


2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cup sesame tahini

2/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla



1 Cook sugar and milk in a sauce pot over medium heat to just under the soft-ball stage (203 degrees Fahrenheit.)

2 Remove from heat and add Tahini and vanilla but do not stir.

3 Wait 2 minutes.

4 Beat the mixture with a paddle or spoon for a few seconds.

5 Pour into a small buttered pan.


Semolina Halva

A compote of dried fruits is wonderful alongside this dish. The pudding is also good served cold. It is very dense, so small portions are adequate.

Above: Semolina shown without the dried fruit and nuts, which are optional in the recipe below.


  • 1 cup coarse semolina (cream of wheat)
  • 1/2 cup clarified butter
  • 3 tbsp currants or dried fruit
  • 4 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp pistachios
  • 1/4 cup candied orange peel

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-2 tsps rosewater (depending on strength)

Method to make the syrup:

Place the sugar in a pan with the water, stir until dissolved and then add all the other ingredients. Strain and keep hot.

In a pan, brown the semolina in the butter, then add the strained syrup slowly and keep stirring for 10 minutes until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan. Add the currants, pine nuts, pistachios and candied peel. Press firmly into a lightly buttered, 2-cup mould or into smaller individual moulds (half-fill buttered teacups or demitasse coffee cups) and unmould while hot onto a plate. Serve with lightly whipped, unsweetened cream and poached fruit.

Serves 8


Everywhere we looked there was a type of yogurt being used or sold somewhere in Turkey. This recipe includes two of their favorite ingredients: lamb and yogurt.

Shish Kofte

500 gr lean ground lamb or beef
1 small onion, grated
1 egg
1 garlic clove, mashed with salt
2 day old slice of Turkish (French, Italian bread) without the crust; soak into water and squeeze
1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp crushed pepper

Tomato Sauce:
1 cup crushed tomato, in can
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup yogurt, plain, room temperature
1-2 garlic cloves, smashed with salt

1 tbsp butter
Red pepper
Cayenne pepper

4 pitas, cut in bite size

Mix all the kofte ingredients together with your hands. Take a fist-sized ball and skewer it, starting from the tip of the skewer. Squeeze and flatten it on the skewer going back slowly, so that it is thin and flat to acquire the shape shown in the picture.

Preheat your barbecue or oven (grill). Place the skewers on the rack. Make sure to turn the skewers so that all sides of the meat cooks equally.

Cook the tomato sauce for a few minutes, put aside. Whisk the yogurt sauce ingredients, put aside.

Place pide pieces on service plates and arrange the kebabs on them. Pour tomato and yogurt sauce all over. Melt the butter in a small pan and add in the pepper. When the the butter starts bubbling, pour over the Yogurtlu Kebab.

4 servings.

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