halva ice cream and enjoying the road

May 28, 2011  |  Food, Travel  |  , ,

Looking through photos from the few weeks I just spent in Israel, I noticed a good chunk of them were taken on the road.  Photos taken out the window of the passenger seat of my friend’s little car as we zipped up and down and across that fascinating little country.

I have more photos from the drive up north through green rolling hills than of camping on the Sea of Galilee when we got there and more photos of the curvy desert road down 400m below sea level than of the Dead Sea itself.

I took a photos somewhere near the Lebanese border where we pulled over for a picnic before the driving back to Tel Aviv, but none of the hike we were driving back from.

Albums from other trips are overtaken by fluffy cloud formations admired on a flight or the reflection in the windshield of my feet resting on a dashboard. When I’m travelling, its so easy to see that the getting there is half the fun, that the sights on the road are often as beautiful as the destination and that every moment is worth appreciating in some way or another.

Back home, I find this feeling too easily slips away if I don’t make an effort to hold on to it, to stop focusing on where I will end up for long enough to enjoy the moment.  The last few weeks have found me particularly caught up in planning and thinking, so much so that I’ve started to forget to enjoy where I am right now.  I am in one of my favourite cities and knee deep in one the best seasons but can’t help but lose my thoughts to details of what lies ahead.  Bright red strawberries and green and white stalks of asparagus overflow out of the market stalls, and I no longer get weird looks for wearing sandals well before sandal season.  Sandal season is here (!!). Sunscreen, bare legs, and ice cream season too.  And as much as I am a believer in planning, to-do listing, thinking ahead and getting excited about the future, I am also a believer of the importance of putting all worries of where you are going and what you are doing on hold to allow space for thoughts of ice cream.  Ice cream has a very strong ability to tug a person back into there right-here-and-right-now.

I tried halva ice cream at a little gelateria on Ben Yehuda street in Tel Aviv after a day of relaxing + overheating + swimming at the beach.  Halva is a hard sesame based sweet from the middle east that I have never completely been a fan of.  It was often the only dessert on offer at family gatherings we would go to as kids, so I remember really trying to like the stuff.  The flavor is rich, nutty and delicious, but I never really enjoyed the rough, dry texture that left my mouth feeling strange after a few bites.  So I was intruigued when I saw it made into an ice cream, and delighted to find that it was all the flavour but none of the texture.

Back home I wanted to recreate the stuff, but decided to get the flavor by mixing honey with tahini, a paste of ground sesame, instead of buying prepackaged halva that is full of preservatives and sugar.

Halva Ice Cream

This ice cream is rich and nutty and though delicious, it’s definitely somewhat unusual tasting and less sweet than most ice creams.  So if you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, this might not be your best bet (toasted marshmellow ice cream, on the other hand, would satisfy any and all cravings for sweetness).

Next time I might play around with adding a spoonful of roseflower water and some crushed walnuts or pistachios.  A swirl of chocolate would also be delicious.

3/4 c. tahini
1/2 c. honey
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 egg yolks
sugar to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons)

1. Pour tahini and honey into a saucepan and warm over medium heat. When small bubbles start to form,  allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking.  Remove from heat and slowly add milk and cream, stirring  until well combined.

2. To temper the egg yolks, put them in a small bowl.  Add a spoonful at a time of the tahini mixture, stirring constantly until you have added 5 spoonfuls.  Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and return to heat, gently cooking on medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool – this should take about 45 minutes.

3. Give it a taste.  Add sugar accordingly, keeping in mind that things taste less sweet when they are frozen – so you’ll want to make it a little sweeter now than what you ultimately aim to end up with.

4.  If you have an ice cream maker transfer the mixture there and follow its directions. If not transfer the mixture to a container and place in the freezer.  Take out the container ever 45 minutes to an hour and mix it up with a spoon to break up any ice particles.  You will probably need to do this 2-4 times until the mixture has frozen completely.

5. Enjoy!



  1. beautiful photos and beautiful words. i cannot wait to eat ice cream with you this summer!

  2. Mmh, sounds delicious!
    And you are so right, I am also often getting lost in planning the future and need constant reminders that I live now and not in the future!
    However, I am enjoying spring as much as I can at the moment :) Happy Monday!

  3. This sounds like a really interesting flavor of ice cream! And thanks for sharing these wonderful photos of your trip! I love what you have to say about the journey being just as much fun as the destination! I just got back from a road trip and totally agree! A bunch of my photos are of my husband as he drove, scenery flying by out the windows, and other antics in the car. Thanks for this all-around great post!

  4. Shirin, this sounds amazing. Maybe I will try and tackle it this summer!
    Did you get a chance to try the halva in jerusalem at the shuk on mahane yehuda street? The texture was unlike anything I’ve had anywhere else. So tasty and moist.

    Missing you!


    • Woah, I didn’t try that Paula but it sounds great! Don’t think I’ve ever had a halva I would describe as moist.

      Miss you too – and cooking with you..

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