Halva Ardeh (حلوا ارده)

Some time ago my brother made me a gift of a valuable book on Persian traditional crafts.[1] It is a treasure trove of information about various aspects of Persian crafts, history and detailed description of tools and techniques. Reading it, I realised that the best way of bringing the contents to a wider audience is to include portions relevant to our subject, i.e. Persian food, on the site.

The first extract I have chosen is the traditional method of making Halva Ardeh. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

A sweet much celebrated over the centuries in fairy tales and poetry is ḥalvā which is made by a specialist confectioner, the ḥavā-paz. The raw materials are raisins, sugar, and sesame. Raisins (kašmeš) are soaked in water in large vats. The resulting juice is boiled into raisin syrup (šireh-kašmeš) in a semispherical copper pan (pā̄ti) about 4 feet in diameter, inclined about 45°and built into a brick fireplace. Glazed tiles surround the rim of the copper pan. Sugaris added to the syrup, and the whole is thickened(seft kardan, h̬ošk kardan) while the confecxtioner constantly stirs it with a wooden paddle (kamānčeh), the working end of which is shaped like a shovel. He throws the mixture up and against the back extension of the pan from where it runs back, losing much of its water with every throw. Meanwhile sesame (konjed) has been sifted (bih̬tan) to remove impurities, washed (šostan) in water, and dried (būm kardan, h̬ošk kardan) on a separate platform heated by an oil fire from underneath. When dry and still warm the seeds are transferred to a small edge runer (āsiyāb-e konjed, sang-e vardeh) that is driven by a donkey. It crushes the seeds into an oily paste (ārdeh).

For the making of hard ḥalvā, sesame paste corresponding to half the amount of boiling syrup is added to the latter, thoroughly stirred in and boiled for a short time. Then the mass is ladled out onto flat trays, sprinkled with crushed pistachio kernels and left to harden. After hardening the ḥalvā is broken into pieces and is then ready for sale. Some confectioners pour the mass onto trays, and after sufficient cooling form it into small cakes about 4 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick.

For the softer variety of ḥalvā, equal amounts of boiling syrup and sesame paste are mixed, and after another short boiling left to cool to a temperature that enables the confectioner to handle the mass. He takes a large lump, draws it out again, and repeats this many times, and all the time some of the sesame oil comes to the surface and forms a film that prevents the coils from sticking together. After he has continued this process for about half an hour the sweet consists of hair-thin threads, each surrounded by a thin film of sesame oil. This mass is pressed onto a large tray and after complete cooling is cut into blocks, ready to be sold.”[2] 

[1] The Traditional Crafts of Persia
Their Development, Technology, and Influence on Eastern and Western Civilizations
By Hans E. Wulff
The M.I.T. Press, 1966

[2] Ibid p 302


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