Helva-i Hakani

This royal treat, whose name means “The Sultan of Halvas” or “Halva Fit for Kings,” was prepared regularly in the palace kitchen of the Ottomans from the 15th century until the 18th century. It is the honey cream sauce that makes this dessert so special. The following recipe comes from Marianna Yerasimos’s 500 Years of Ottoman Cuisine, a substantial work on Ottoman culinary culture:   



For the halva:

½ cup of flour (75g)

½ cup of farina (50g)

½ cup of rice flour (60g)

125g of butter


For the sauce:

300g of honey or 2 cups of sugar

125g of raw almonds

150g of clotted cream

3 cups of milk


Preparation:  Leave almonds in hot water for a while and then peel. Set aside some almonds to be used later for garnish. Finely grind the remainder in a mortar. Mix together the three different flours in a deep saucepan. Boil milk and add honey for the sauce. Keep it hot on a back burner. Lightly cook the three different flours in heated butter. Then turn up the heat and start stirring this “gooey mass” with a wooden spoon. Add the ground almonds and continue to cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until the mixture thickens. When the flours and almonds change color, turn the heat way down. Using a wooden spoon, vigorously stir the sugar or honey syrup into the halva. Continue this process until there is no more halva liquid and the halva that is stuck to the pan lets go. Leave the halva over very low flame to settle. Turn off the burner. Then stir it again until the halva resembles porridge. Portion out the clotted cream and put it on top of the still hot halva. Turn over the halva once more and pour it onto a serving plate. Garnish it with peeled almonds. Splash with rose water or orange blossom water, or sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. As an alternative to adding the clotted cream to the halva, you can offer it on the side.