Confessions of a foodie
#5: Cheese halva
Do you enjoy experimenting with flavors or trying foods that are incompatible? I don’t but hear me out for this one. It might sound unconventional but balancing sugar with salt is a quite established culinary practice. That balance of sweet and savory is exactly what makes cheese halva (‘peynir helvasi’ in Turkish) so delicious! Cheese halva is a heavenly concoction made from string cheese — particularly ‘dil peyniri’ (‘tongue cheese’ in English) that is very similar to mozzarella in texture is the one to use for this recipe — as well as sugar, butter, egg yolk, flour, and semolina and mostly popular in the European part of Turkey.
I tried it for the first time in the summer of 2005 in Gelibolu, Turkey. My grandparents bought a batch of cheese halva during their trip to Chanakkale. Already having tried different versions of this confectionery delight back in Azerbaijan, I only had associations with super sweet ingredients used to make halva. Hence, I had my hesitations because my mind couldn’t fathom the combination of sugary halva and salty cheese. But the moment I put a spoonful of cheese halva in my mouth I realized how wrong I had been.
During my last visit to Baku in July 2018, my mom had a small batch of cheese halva saved for me from their last trip to Istanbul. She knows how much I love it, so she kept a small container of halva in the freezer. The first day I arrived home, I dived into it. The halva was soft, mushy and silky with a texture of the sweetest mango but with a hint of tanginess from dil peyniri. Can I just say you shouldn’t leave this planet without having tasted cheese halva?!