Tar Halva is a traditional dessert from Iran’s southern city of Shiraz, cooked mainly in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Tar Halva, which translates to “moist sweets”, was a very popular dessert among the families of Shiraz in the not-too-distant past. It is still on the table in the ceremonies, mourning gatherings, and specifically in the holy month of Ramadan.
The main difference between Tar Halva and the other types of Halva is that it is made with starch, which gives the dessert a stiffer texture and allows it to be easily sliced.
Normally, Tar Halva is made in two colors, white and yellow, which contains saffron. The cooking process usually begins in the evening after Iftar (break of the fast) and goes on until midnight, sometimes until Sahari (the pre-dawn meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting).
Ingredients for Shirazi Tar Halva that serves 4-6:
1 cup starch
½ cup rice flour
6 cup milk
4 cup water
1 cup rosewater
3 cup sugar
nuts for garnish
Mix starch and water until the starch dissolves. Mix rice flour and milk. Combine the two mixtures and sieve it. You had better cook Tar Halva in non-stick or cast-iron cookware to prevent the stuff from sticking to the pot walls and bottom.
Add the mixture of starch, rice flour, water and milk to a pot and stir over medium heat. Tar Halva should be made over low heat, because the raw taste of rice flour should disappear completely.
Keep in mind that Tar Halva syrup must be stirred constantly, otherwise the rice flour and starch will immediately settle to bottom of pot and get cooked.
When the mixture is concentrated to some extent, add sugar and rosewater and keep stirring until the mixture is fully concentrated.
The syrup should have a moderate consistency, not too soft, not too hard. Now turn off the heat and divide the mixture in half. Keep one half white and add thick liquid saffron to the other half so that liquid would not float on it anymore.
Tar Halva must be served in a bevelled dish. First soak the dish with cold water, then add the white base. You can lay the yellow base on the white layer, or serve them in two separate dishes. Garnish each dish with slivered or chopped pistachios.
Set aside so it cools down before putting it in refrigerator. You can slice Tar Halva after a couple of hours. Cut off the rim of the dessert with a knife. Now you can easily slice Tar Halva and take it out of the dish.
The following images show the process of making Tar Halva of Shiraz in a confectionary shop selling traditional sweets in the city, released by Fars News Agency: