Andreas has been in the kitchen again - baking up a batch of gourmet pistachio Mantecol (halva for those outside Argentina) for our Wooden Table Cafe. Like alfajores, halva hails from Arabia, but it journeyed to Greece before arriving in Buenos Aires, so it retains its nut butter base (originally tahini) and crumbly goodness. Mantecol is the leading brand of halva in Argentina – it is worshipped daily by children and eaten by the pound during the holidays. Since Cadbury bought Mantecol in 2001 and changed the recipe, your better bet for store-bought halva is Nucrem, who still uses the original Greek recipe of the Georgalos family. You can come get Andreas' fancy Mantecol at the cafe while it’s here!
Halva is a particularly international dish popular in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Americas. In each locale, its name and ingredients slightly differ. Egyptians called it halawa and mixed in pistachios, almonds or pine nuts, while Indians shortened the name to halva and flavored it with regional products such as ghee, coconuts and dates. In Iran, it is one of the dishes with which to break the Ramadan fast. In the US, the candy’s biggest promoter was Nathan Radutzky, a young Jew from Kiev who produced his first batch of halvah in his garage on the Lower East Side in 1907. Happy Halva!