LONDON, England (Ant Farmer's Almanac Newswire) British tabloids are reporting that Madonna's household chef has been tutored in the secrets of making halvah, an ancient Jewish delicacy.
Sources close to Mary Reilly, the 23-year-old Irish-born cook employed by glam couple Madonna and Guy Ritchie, say she was whisked off for several weeks to Cantor's Delicatessen in Los Angeles to learn the art and mystery of halvah preparation. It is not known whether this is an outgrowth of the Kabbalah-smitten Madonna's exploration into Judaic mysticism or an elaborate way to trick her kids into having fewer sweets.
Often confused with "baklava" by people who've never had either, halvah originated in the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean where it is still believed to be a dessert. The confection is made of ground sesame seeds, honey or sugar syrup, with dried fruit, pistachio nuts and farina and sometimes almonds, cinnamon and cardamon, which are then heated and poured into bars or long loaves. The name means literally 'sweetmeat' and forms of it are found in Turkish, Greek, Yiddish and Arabic cooking (Helva, halwa, halawi, etc.), as well as other cultures whose traditional cuisine predates chocolate.
Also unknown is whether Reilly picked up other traditionally Jewish culinary skills while at L.A.'s famed eatery. However, regulars at a London tea shop frequented by Guy Ritchie report that the film director has stopped ordering his usual Full English Breakfast ("Full Monty") of fried bacon, sausage, mushroom, eggs and tomato in favor of a "Bialy with schmeer."
Asked if she thought her time with the masters of deli fare had been well-spent, Reilly shrugged and replied, "It couldn't hurt."