Halva, meaning ‘sweet’ in Arabic, is popular throughout the Middle East and Indian subcontinent. Unlike the tahini version often seen, Persian halva is made from a flour and butter dough, flavoured with two of Persia’s most popular ingredients: saffron and rose water. It’s always made for special occasions including weddings and funerals and often elaborately decorated. The process takes a while as the flour is toasted and has to be stirred constantly, but it can be made days in advance and keeps for up to a week. Wheat flour is most commonly used for Persian halva, but there are versions made with rice flour. This is another dish associated with Nazri, the giving of alms.
Serves 12 (or more)
Persian rose petals and vibrant green Persian pistachios are available online through Saffron & More.
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Parmesan, whether it’s Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano should always be ‘broken’ from a whole wheel with a parmesan knife, a blunt wedged-shape blade especially designed for this purpose.
Always buy pieces of parmigiano or grana ‘broken’ from a whole wheel with a parmesan knife if possible and never pre-grated.
The name ‘parmesan’ refers to hard grating cheeses all over the world, from the best Italian parmigiano to the worst, pre-grated, rancid-smelling powders on supermarket shelves. This type of cheese is sometimes also called ‘grana’ because of to its grainy texture. One of Italy’s oldest cheese styles, it may date to around 1000 B.C. and was very important in medieval times, sometimes used as currency, due to its long shelf life. Parmigiano Reggiano, produced to very strict guidelines in a designated area of Emilia-Romagna, is considered the benchmark parmesan.
Grana Padano is a parmesan-style cheese very similar to the more famous Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s produced in a wider area of Italy including Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Piedmont and Veneto and looks very similar to Parmigiano, its rind stencilled with the words ‘Grana Padano’, the mark of the consorzio, dairy, and date. It can be used interchangeably with Parmigiano Reggiano.