halawat timman (Iraqi toasted rice flour halwa)
Wednesday, 15 Feb 2017

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This month the country for the MENA cooking club) is Iraq, which dovetails nicely with my #NoMuslimBan series. Out of the three choices, I decided to make an Iraqi sweet called halawat timman. It’s toasted rice flour cooked down with a syrup, cardamom and rose water and topped with nuts - kind of like a sweet rice mush. I’ve never had a halwa, made from rice, and eaten with a spoon before. It looked the easiest recipe and I already had all the ingredients. Some time back I’d bought a bag of rice flour and a tube of brown rice flour, probably in a misguided attempt to go slightly gluten-free.

The recipe I used comes from Nawal Nasrallah’s Delights from the Garden of Eden, by way of food.com. I used half regular and half fancy brown rice flour since I had both types, and I didn’t use pistachios since I don’t have any at the moment. I ended up using a lot more rosewater, about 2 tbsp rather than the 0.5 suggested, to get a mild rose flavour, milder than Turkish delight. I used the Al-Rabih brand which is inexpensive and easily found. The whole effect is actually reminiscent of a very subtle Turkish delight. It has a similar flavour profile (ie. rosewater and sugar), with an appealing creamy texture, a nutty crunch from the almonds, a gentle rose flavour and, despite my initial worry about the sugar syrup being too sweet, the sweetness is soft and not cavity-inducing. My husband called it dessert gruel (he likes it though and he normally doesn’t like rose flavoured things). That’s what it is and that’s exactly what it looks like, but looks aside, it’s a lovely thing to eat with a spoon when you’re chilling on the couch.

Iraqi food blogs:
Nawal Nasrallah
Maryam’s Culinary Wonders
The Iraqi Family Cookbook

And also:
Everyday Iraq

Iraqi toasted rice halwa

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 0.5 cup sugar
  • 2.5 cup water
  • 1.5 tbsp butter
  • 0.5 cup rice flour
  • 0.5 tsp ground cardamom
  • rose water
  • flaked almonds
Method

First make the syrup in the microwave to minimise pan usage. Combine the sugar and water in a microwavable bowl and blitz for 2 minutes. Stir. blitz for another 2 minutes. Stir to dissolve. Leave to cool a little while you do the rice flour bit.

Melt butter in a little pot (I used a milk pot and everything fit). Add the rice flour and stir. Keep stirring from time to time for about 10 minutes. It'll eventually turn golden and smell warm and toaty.

Very very carefully, pour the syrup into the rice flour. Stir on a simmer. The recipe said to use a wire whisk but I don't have one. I tried to smush most of the lumps with the back of the wooden spoon I was using. There were clumps in my halwa, it's not the end of the world.

Mine looked quite thick after about 5 minutes so I added the ground cardamom and rose water.

Continue to simmer until a thick paste consistency.

Spread on a plate.

Now toast the almonds in a pan (I washed the little pot, dried it and toasted the almonds in that).

Sprinkle the toasted almonds on the plate of golden rice flour mush.


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