Sweet Semolina and Dried-Apricot Pilaf

This lovely dessert or late-breakfast dish is made by toasting coarse semolina and almonds in butter, then simmering them with sweetened milk and dried apricots. The result is crumbly, aromatic and pilaf-like. It’s called helva in Turkey, though it’s not to be confused with another Turkish dessert called halvah, which is made with tahini and is fairly common in the U.S.

As shown in the photo, I serve this with a dollop of Greek yogurt mixed with honey and cinnamon and sliced fresh apricots, garnished with golden raisins, slivered almonds, mint and a drizzle of honey. Perfection!

Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup coarse semolina (6 ounces); see Note
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried apricots, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Pinch of salt
Crème fraîche or orange sorbet, for serving

Method:
In a small saucepan, bring the whole milk to a boil with the sugar. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the semolina and almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk mixture, apricots, almond extract and salt. Cover and let stand until the liquid is completely absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve with crème fraîche or sorbet.

Notes:
Semolina is an Italian word which means “semi-milled”. It’s made from durum wheat, with a coarsely ground consistency that is not flour-like. Coarse-ground semolina is available at Middle Eastern groceries and online from sites like Amazon or Kalustyan’s (kalustyans.com). If you can’t find coarse-ground semolina, you can substitute coarse-ground cornmeal.

last updated August 17, 2023