Recipe Corner: St. Sarkis Halva (Marshmallow Halva)

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This St. Sarkis Halva recipe is featured in The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook published by Lena Tashjian and Siroon Parseghian in 2020. “The holiday celebrates Saint Sarkis, one of the most beloved Saints within modern Armenian culture, as he is the Armenian patron saint of love and youth, similar to Saint Valentine. His feast day is a moveable feast, held anywhere between January 11 and February 15.

On St. Sarkis Day, Armenians in the Diaspora believe that before you can have the good halva, you have to consume and endure the not-so-good aghablit.

The holiday is celebrated 63 days before Easter, and the aghablit is an unbearably salty cookie or wafer that is always consumed the night before St. Sarkis Day,” says Lena.

“Aghablit sets the wheels of love in motion for those people who are not yet married,” adds Lena. “The night before the holiday, after consuming the aghablit, you are not meant to eat or drink anything afterward, which means you will go to bed thirsty. And then you are expected to dream about a person who will offer you water or lead you to a source of water. According to the tradition, this person will be your future spouse. Every man who has the name Sarkis is congratulated for their name on Saint Sarkis Day.”

On the eve of the holiday, Lena begrudgingly consumes aghablit, reminding herself that by eating the almost inedible cookie so that she will be able to treat herself to the delectable St. Sarkis Halva in the morning.

According to Revd. Dr. Nersessian, “St. Sarkis lived during the fourth century and was from Caesarea of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He rose through the military ranks as a consequence of his valiant campaigns and even a trustworthy and faithful general to Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor. At the accession to power of Emperor Julian the Apostate in 361 AD, Sarkis took refuge with his son, Martiros, in Armenia. Later, when the pagan emperor Julian fought against the Persians, Sarkis and his son went to Persia to join the Persian army in the service of the Persian king Shapur II and fought in the Persian army against the Romans. Sarkis also converted many Persian soldiers to Christianity. King Shapur II discovered that Sarkis was a Christian and asked him to abandon his faith and embrace Zoroastrianism instead. St. Sarkis steadfastly refused to abandon his faith. Finally, the king executed both Sarkis and his son.

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“Today there are over 200 monasteries and churches in his honor. Thousands of tales are stories are woven around his name. In Armenian art, he is usually depicted on a horse with his son Martiros sitting behind him. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a large printed curtain made in Madras in 1710 with the image of St. Sarkis and Martiros on horseback,” says Dr. Nersessian. “For the Armenian nation, St. Sarkis is one of the most beloved. It isn’t casual that St. Mesrop Mashtots brought the relics of the saint to the village Karbi (Ashtarak Region) and the Church of St. Sarkis was built over his relics,” adds writer Tamar Najarian.

To make aghablit (Salty Wafers/Cookies), combine:1 1⁄4 cups of flour with a few tablespoons of salt and stir well. Add enough water to create a dough and roll it out. Cut into shapes of choice (or use cookie cutters) and bake at 350F (180C) until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.

St. Sarkis Halva (Marshmallow Halva)

Ingredients:

3⁄4 to 1 cup sugar

1⁄3 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons rose water

5 cups (250 g) vegan (gelatin-free) marshmallows*

1 cup walnuts halves

2 to 3 cups sesame seeds (you won’t use them all but need a good amount to properly coat the halva)

Preparation:

Place sesame seeds in the refrigerator to cool. In the meantime, combine water and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Once the sugar water boils, reduce heat to low-medium and add the lemon juice.

A few minutes later, add the rose water. Once mixture becomes golden in color, add the marshmallows. Stir until completely smooth, and then turn off heat. Pour chilled sesame seeds in a tray. While mixture is still hot, pour scoops of it—making the scoops as round and flat as possible—on top of the sesame seeds. Pour as many scoops as you can fit on the tray.

Place walnut halves in the middle of each scoop. Let the halva cool for about 45 seconds to 1 minute, as it will be much easier to roll and handle the scoops. Then fold one side over, followed by the other.

* From Lena Tashjian: “This halva is traditionally made by whipping the reduced liquid from boiled dried soapwort roots. Marshmallow is a short-cut used by many people today. For example, Dandies Marshmallows are made with all natural ingredients, contain no high fructose corn syrup or gelatin (they’re 100% vegan), and are the first ever marshmallow to be Non-GMO Project Verified.”

See this recipe’s how-to video, at: https://youtu.be/3IC-pBMUTLE

ORDER TODAY: The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook is a self-published project (2020) between Lena Tashjian, the author and recipe developer, and Siroon Parseghian, the photographer and food stylist. Filled with over 115 recipes, the cookbook highlights the plant-based and many Lenten staples present in both Armenia and the Diaspora, and includes a wide selection of veganized classics. “We continue to donate all proceeds from our signature tote bags to @armeniafund, along with a portion of proceeds from the cookbook, matching whenever possible.” Go to: https://veganarmeniankitchen.com/product/vegan-armenian-kitchen-cookbook/

References:

https://www.instagram.com/veganarmeniancookbook/

https://www.facebook.com/veganarmeniancookbook/

Episode 11: Vegan Armenian Kitchen with Lena Tashjian

Sourp Sarkis- Armenian Traditions

https://tamarnajarian.wordpress.com/category/armenia-miscellaneous/traditions-and-celebrations/page/4/
https://www.facebook.com/CometoArmenia/posts/249484385128744

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