Image courtesy of Peyman Meli
It's self-evident why I'm writing this post today, I suppose. For two weeks, I have been watching, along with the rest of the world, the devastation in my homeland.
Some four years ago, I wrote these words:
While I am not surprised by what is happening in Tehran, I am shocked and saddened at its course.
I wouldn't have expected myself to be as gravely affected by the images, by the Tweets, by the words of the scholars and theologians who've been interviewed. I certainly did not expect to be this angry at or disappointed in President Obama, for whom I cast my first ballot ever. And to be honest, I kept it together fairly well until I finally watched the video of Neda Agha-Soltan's death. Since then, I find myself dissolving into tears frequently, and unable to process the myriad articles and blog posts and news stories. I mean that quite literally -- I read the same sentence over and over, keep rewinding the clips, and somehow the words just don't come together in any comprehensible way.
So I decided that since I can't control or comprehend or, frankly, deal with what's going on back home, I would make halva in honor of the brave, willful, hopeful Iranians who have spilled their blood in the streets while the Persian diaspora looks on.
We Iranians are a people for whom food is sacred. Like most ancient civilizations, we still eat dishes that have survived invasions, dynastic changes, and cultural revolutions. Our halva is quite different from those you are probably familiar with (which we call "halvardeh"). It's a sweet, slightly bitter, highly fragrant and somewhat dense paste, traditionally made and eaten during occasions of mourning -- wakes, memorials, even simply to honor a lost loved one. It seemed a fitting food to come from my kitchen these days.
- 1 c. white granulated sugar
- 1/2 c. water
- 1/4 c. rosewater
- 3-4 threads good quality saffron
- 1 c. unsalted butter
- 1-1/2 c. white flour
- Heat sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rosewater and saffron, cover and remove from heat.
- Melt the butter gently over low heat; do not allow it to brown. Add the flour, stirring to create a "roux". Keep stirring (I use a wooden spoon) until it takes on a deep gold color and begins to smell quite nutty -- about 7-10 minutes*.
- Slowly add the sugar syrup to the flour paste, stirring well to incorporate completely.
- Turn the paste out onto a serving plate and press into place -- it should be about 1/3" or so thick. Press patterns into the halva using the back of a spoon or the tines of a fork. Allow to cool, and serve with hot tea.
*I like my halva with a little more color; if you prefer it sweeter and less "burnt" cook it a bit less. Just make sure to cook off the raw flour taste.