25 April 2014 | 09:00
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Samani halva - Malted wheat halva

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Samani halva, made from malted wheat, can best be described as a spicy, gooey, chewy treat.
Also known as Suhan or Isfahan halva, samani halva is believed to have a range of health benefits, including improving circulation and enhancing mood. One samani halva tradition in Azerbaijan is to make halva communally, using flour from seven different homes. The finished halva is distributed amongst the neighbourhood. The name halva covers a range of traditional sweets, popular in Azerbaijan and throughout the Middle East. There are many variations on two basic types of halva: one is a moist, near-liquid sweet made from butter, sugar and flour while the other is harder and is based on nuts or seeds. "Saying halva won't make your mouth sweet" is a popular Azerbaijani proverb. It means that it's not enough to talk about something, you have to take action too.

Preparation time: 2 days
Cooking time: 4-8 hours
Serves: 7-10

Ingredients
  • 100 g/4 oz wheat
  • 500 g/1 lb 4 oz wheat flour
  • 100 g/4 oz butter
  • 200 g/8 oz doshab (mulberry or grape syrup)
  • 100 g/4 oz crushed walnuts (optional)
  • 100 g/4 oz nutmeg
  • pinch of anise, pepper, cinnamon, ground fennel seeds
Preparation
  • Wash the whole wheat grains and rinse. Steep the grains in tepid water and cover with a clean cloth. After 12 hours, drain and rinse thoroughly. Place in a dry container in a dark place or cover with a paper bag to keep the light out. The grains will continue to sprout. Rinse the grains every 8 to 12 hours for 1 to 2 days. When the grains have started to sprout roots, they are ready for use. Don't allow them to sprout for two long or they will start to grow grass.
  • Rinse and drain the sprouting grains one last time. Squeeze the sprouting grains through gauze or a fine sieve, collecting all the nutritious juice. Discard the chaff.
  • Make the dough for the halva by mixing the liquid from the grains and the flour in a heavy pan. A cast-iron or copper-bottomed pan is traditional.
  • Add a chunk of the butter to the pan and start to cook the halva over a low to medium heat, stirring continuously with a spatula (known in Azerbaijani as an arsin). Add more butter to the bottom underneath the dough at regular intervals. When all the butter has been added, leave the samani halva to cook for 4 to 8 hours over a low flame. Stir frequently.
  • When the dough is cooked, add the doshab (mulberry or grape syrup), crushed walnuts (if using) and spices and stir well.
  • Shape the halva into rounds, some 12 cm/4.5" in diameter.
  • Decorate with walnut halves on top and leave to cool.