Lemon Halva

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Last year was a pretty good year on a personal level. The blog keeps on rising in popularity, I’m cooking the best food I’ve ever showcased here and I’m meeting some wonderful people – all not possible had I not created this blog back in 2007. Last year I was invited to attend the Sani Gourmet Festival in May and during that Spring I also met with Greek cooking legend, Vefa Alexiadou.

In terms of cookbooks, there was little happening on the Greek front, other than practically every wife being given a Tselementes book upon being married. Vefa came around and explored Greek cookery further, gathering recipes from all regions of Greece, releasing booklets specific to the seasons or type of course. Vefa was also the one who first appeared on Greek TV with her cooking segments on a morning show. Her popularity grew when she broke out and hosted her own show dedicated to just cooking.

having a coffee with Vefa Alexiadou

Today, if  you turn-on your TV set in Greece you’ll see a cooking show on every channel (even English food celebs dubbed in Greek) and all these Greek food celebrities in part owe a bit of gratitude to “kuria Vefa” for opening the doors wide for their celebrity. As someone as passionate about Greek as I am, it was an honour to meet Vefa over a coffee last Spring but it was a privilege to be invited back to her summer home in Halkidiki when I returned for my summer vacation.

I traveled south from my family’s summer home on a very hot summer night, kinda’ sticky if I recall. I finally arrived in the town where Vefa’s summer home is but I was a little lost. All one has to do is ask which way to kuria Vefa’s home and EVERYBODY knows where she lives! I found the home, was greeted like a relative who was way overdue for a visit and treated to the infamous Greek philoxenia at “Vefa’s House”!

Sani Beach, Halkidiki

We chatted more about Greece, the Greek food scene, recipes and beautiful Halkidiki. We sat and chatted over a light dinner which ended with a light, refreshing Halva I’d never had before. Halva in Greek cuisine can mean it’s made from sesame paste, from corn starch and the most widely common being the semolina halva. Semolina halva begins by making a syrup, often with spices like cinnamon and clove added with some citrus peel.

The coarse semolina is toasted in either butter or olive oil (the latter used during Lent), nuts are added into the mix and finally the syrup is added to the semolina to form a grainy paste that is place in moulds and inverted on a platter and chilled until serving. What set this Halva apart from others was that the prominent flavour here was lemon and the semolina is just slightly toasted, keeping the colour light (as opposed to the usual beige). On that got day, the Lemon Halva was the perfect light dessert accompanied by a cold glass of water.

Lemons are still in season and this gives you another dessert idea that requires less than 30 minutes preparation. It’s easy, it’s light, the pure lemon flavour with the lightly toasted semolina is only nudged with a pinch of ground cinnamon an a splash of vanilla. The real flavour in lemons (and citrus) is the zest and peel and in Lemon Halva, it really shines. Vefa, you’ve done it again!

Lemon Halva (Halva Lemoniou)

To get this recipe and more, please by my cookbook, Everything Mediterranean.



© 2012 – 2014,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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23 Comments for “Lemon Halva”


Blogging has afforded us many opportunities Peter to live and breathe food and meet so many wonderful people who have the same passions. Thanks for sharing Vefa with us.



This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing it, Peter, and so glad things are going well with you! (Second attempt at comment as I forgot to do the arithmetic anti-Spam calculation – hee hee!).


Yes, blogging affords many opportunities, including meeting wonderful people like this woman. I would never have known about a lot of Greek foods had it not been for your blog, Peter.


I know this must be very sweet but the semolina, almonds and lemon are pulling me right in. A little Greek coffee will cut the sweetness, right? Plus it’s so pretty.


Entaksei Peter… oti kai na poume gia ti Vefa einai ligo! M’aresei o en8ousiasmos sou se osa perigrafeis, prepei na einai polu aksiologos a8rwpos!
O halvas sou fainetai uperoxos! Super idea na ton arwmatiseis me lemoni!

PS. Sou grafw se greeklish gia na prooponeisai kai sta ellinika! Mipws protimas na grafw sta agglika? Oti se voleuei!



Hello Peter! I stumbled across your blog last week and am enjoying it greatly. Thank you for all the lovely posts and recipes. Greetings from Turkey, Burcu


Love that halvah dessert! The addition of citrus is brilliant; the only dessert that is very similar here has orange blossom or rose water as a flavor and a bit of cinnamon and is laced with melted cheese. This lady looks so dignified and classy.


Dear Peter !

I have been cooking some times your recipes and I have never taken the time to say a few words about it.
I know, there are a lot who are coming and going like this. But, I think is good to tell things and encourage
the persons who would like to.

So, dear food magician, Thank you for sharing all these excellent voyages to the region of Mediterranean tastes.

I come this time to look for a halva. I see you put lemon in it and I’ll try it your way. It will be the first time aftter a long time. I think I was a teenager last time I tried and my souvenir looses ground.

For the story of this awakening : I spend a night in Athens for a transit and we went in a small place in the south of Akropoli, it must have been Ano Petralona, and we had raki and some delicious mezze (λουκάνικο Ευβοίας, αρμένικη ομελέτα… λιβανέζικη σαλάτα με φέτα) and when the second bottle of raki came to its happy end, they offered us halva and another glass of raki. It was just super. My friend Penelope told me 4 3 2 1: this is the halvas recipe.

Along with your own arrangement of the basis and the addition of the lemon to “break” the sweet note, I think I have what I needed.

Thank you again, and take care of your dreams,




This is a great article! I love seeing all of the pics. I was surprised that the halva didnt have sesame seeds in it. Also, Im not familiar with semolina. Im wondering if someone could use quinoa instead.


Liz, Greeks have three types of halva: one made of corn starch, the other with sesame paste and this one with semolina. It has a texture like cream of wheat. Quinoa would NOT work here.



Thanks Peter! I love halva. I think I had the sesame seed kind before. I am in colorado springs- it doesnt seem like a person could get traditional greek food here but I will keep an eye out for it. I love greek salads and baklava!


I can’t wait to make this Peter! Can butter or olive oil be substituted by sunflower oil or margarine? Would the taste suffer?
Btw, thank you for all your posts, you give me the best cooking ideas!