In the case of St. Sarkis Day, before you can have the good (halva), you have to endure the not-so-good (aghablit).
The holiday falls on February 8 this year, and the tradition that is common in the Armenian diaspora is to enjoy a delicious halva on the morning of, with or without a fasting period beforehand. In Armenia, aghablit is the name of the game, an almost unbearably salty cookie or wafer that is consumed the night before St. Sarkis Day.
Why? Well, since the holiday celebrates Saint Sarkis, the patron saint of love and youth, it can be likened somewhat to an Armenian-style Valentine’s Day. And aghablit sets the wheels of love in motion for those not yet married in an interesting way.
The night before St. Sarkis Day, after consuming aghablit, you are not meant to eat or drink anything afterward, which means you will go to bed quite thirsty. You are then expected to dream about a person who will offer you water or lead you to a source of water. According to tradition (and a hefty amount of testimonials) this person will be your future spouse.
I like to combine Eastern and Western traditions for this holiday. On the eve, I begrudgingly consume aghablit, reminding myself as I eat the almost inedible cookie that I will treat myself to St. Sarkis Halva in the morning as I try and remember my dream!
You can watch (1:38 to skip intro) or read the recipes below:
To make aghablit, simply combine 1 1⁄4 cups 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.
- 3⁄4 to 1 cup sugar
- 1⁄3 cup water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp rose water
- 5 cups (250 g) vegan (gelatin-free) marshmallows*
- 1 cup walnuts halves
- 2 to 3 cups sesame seeds (won’t use them all but need a good amount to properly coat halva)
- Place sesame seeds in the fridge 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.
*This halva is traditionally made by whipping the reduced liquid from boiled dried soapwort roots. Marshmallow is a short-cut used by many!
This recipe is featured in the newly released The Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook! You can order your copy here.