Hye Thyme Cafe: Imrig Halva

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Imrig Halva

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe
Need a last minute dessert, but you're short on ingredients or don't have time to bake? Easy - break out the Cream of Wheat! Yup, you read that right.

It wasn't until a week or so ago when I read the Cream of Wheat Biscottis post over on Taste of Beirut that I thought to make this dessert. It has been at least a year since I had it. She mentioned wanting to eat more Cream of Wheat, but not liking it in its traditional "hot cereal" state. I don't know her stance on oatmeal, but it's the opposite for me. I love a bowl of Cream of Wheat, but can't manage to choke down a bowl of Oatmeal to save my life ... no matter how much I love oatmeal bread, oatmeal cookies, etc.

I grew up eating this, so I think I was programmed at birth to use pine nuts, but I'm assuming any nut you like would be fine. Because I don't know many people who make this version of Halva, I decided to take a peek online and see what I could come up with. It turns out it hasn't been around for as long as I had assumed. According to an article in The Armenian Weekly, it came about at the end of the Armenian Genocide (WWI), when America was shipping donations of Cream of Wheat over to the Armenian orphanages. The directions said to serve with cream and sugar, but with none being available, a resourceful George Mardikian (Freedom Fighter - later of Omar Khayyam's restaurant in San Francisco) opted to cook the farina with pine nuts and a honey syrup, creating a new twist on an old favorite, the traditional Sesame Halva.

Again, because I grew up on it, I have an old-school approach and just dump some in a bowl and eat it, but because of it's texture, it lends itself well to being molded - in a ramekin, prep bowl, cookie cutter, etc.  I like it best served warm.

1/2 c butter
1/3 c pine nuts
1 c Cream of Wheat  (farina)
1 1/2 c water  (or half water, half milk)
3/4 c sugar
cinnamon for garnish

Melt the butter, then add the pine nuts and farina, stirring to coat, and cook until browned. Just be careful to keep stirring. If your pine nuts sit in one spot for too long on the heat, they'll burn.

While that's cooking, in a separate pot, bring the sugar and milk up to a slow boil and pour over the browned mixture. Give it a stir so you don't end up with big lumps, then pop a cover on it and remove from the heat. Just let it sit for 10-15" to absorb, like you would if you were making couscous.

Fluff it with a fork, then serve up a bowl (or mold it), sprinkled with cinnamon.

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe

Imrig Halva : Hye Thyme Cafe


  1. This recipe is terrific! I will send it over to my son who eats cream of wheat several times a day! My problem is finding good pine nuts (after I use up the supply I bring back with me from Lebanon!). This dessert has such an interesting and tragic story; my dad's nanny was a young Armenian girl who fled her village alive because she had hid in a closet; all her family was slaughtered. How sad what humans do to each other.
    This dish reminds me a bit of mamounieh, which I posted on, and comes from Aleppo. It is however made with fine semolina.

  2. It really IS awful. My grandmother and one of her brothers ended up in those orphanages for a while. My grandfather had a baby sister passed off to a priest to try to save her. We have no idea whatever happened to her. If she was killed, protected, ended up over here as our next-door-neighbor. No way of knowing. So strange! I must have missed your Mamounieh post. Either that, or I read it so long ago, I forgot about it when I saw your biscotti post.

  3. this is the type of halva turkish armenians will make in honor of someone who passes. it is usually served at the funeral lunch, as well as the 40 day requiem. it's common also at every anniversary of a loved one's death, and usually a cross is sprinkled on top using cinnamon.

    1. Hmmm, I wonder if that's a regional tradition. I really don't know anyone else who makes this version, and we always just had it at random times, never related to a death, church service, etc. I played around with a sample of chocolate cream of wheat and almonds a while back to make a chocolate version too. :)

  4. Just made this for the first time! This is similar to how my mom and grandma always made it as well, except my mom said she uses a bit more liquid. It tastes great!! Thanks for posting this :)

  5. Glad you enjoyed it. I made a semolina cake a while back and have some left over. I might have to make this again soon too. Thanks for the reminder. ;)


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