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 sesame seeds. Saying halva won't make your mouth sweet" ("Halva-halva deməklə ağız şirin olmaz") is a popular Azerbaijani proverb. It means that it's not enough to talk about something, you have to take action too. Azerbaijani cuisine has a variety of types of halva. Umaj halva is the moist kind. The word umaj (umac) means a dish made from "crumbled" flour, so umaj halva is made by rubbing water into the flour. Umaj soup is considered good for colds. There's an Azerbaijani proverb involving umaj too – "Özünə umac ova bilmir, başqasına əriştə kəsir". This translates literally as, "He can't crumble his own umaj, but tries to make noodles for other people" and refers to people who cannot manage their own affairs, but try to tell other people what to do.
Preparation time: 15 min
Cooking time: 40 min
- 100 g/4 oz wheat flour
- 100 g/4 oz butter
- 80-100 ml/3-4 fl oz water (for funeral halva, rose water is used instead of plain water)
- 100 g/4 oz sugar
- 1 tspn honey
- pinch of salt
- a few saffron threads soaked for at least 30 minutes in warm water
- Make the syrup by putting equal quantities of sugar and water into a pan and heating gradually until the syrup comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the honey and saffron soaked in water and stir well.
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add a little water and rub in with your hands, crumbling the flour. Gradually add more water, mixing it in after every addition. Continue until hardly any flour remains. Don't let the flour form into lumps. Sift the umaj to remove any remaining flour that has not been rubbed into the mixture.
- Melt the butter in a separate pan. As soon as the butter has melted, add the flour mixture and mix in well. Cook until the mixture turns a golden colour.
- Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the prepared syrup, stirring well after each addition. Take care as the mixture may spit. The halva should be saturated with syrup. Spoon the halva onto dessert plates. Chill before serving.