Milk Halwa for Rosh Hashanah

Copyright ©ShulieMadnick
Halwa is a traditional Indian milk custard made by the Bene Israel Indian Jews in Mumbai for Rosh Hashanah. In India halwa is made with “chick,” a wheat gluten, but in Israel, a majority of the community is using cornstarch as a substitute, at times together with China grass (agar-agar) — they are quicker thickening agents. The recipe can be made with either milk or coconut milk. At home growing up, my mom always made it with whole milk — as I continue doing every Rosh Hashanah. This year, I might make it with coconut milk inspired by "How A Mumbai Cook Prepares For Rosh Hashanah.

This recipe and article "Flavors of an Indian-Israeli Rosh Hashanah" were originally published in Haaretz English edition on September 8, 2015.  In an effort to curate my articles and recipes in one space, I  republished the article and recipe in this space. 

All copyright material © ShulieMadnick. Please do not copy or republish without permission. A link to this post can be shared.

Milk Halwa


1 liter whole milk (4 cups)
½ liter water (2 cups)
1½ cups sugar
7½ ounces of cornstarch
½ - 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamon
4 ounces (1stick) unsalted butter or unsalted margarine
¼–½ cup sliced or chopped roasted, unsalted pistachios (See note below)
¼–½ cup sliced or chopped roasted, unsalted almonds (See note below)
Extra butter or margarine for greasing


Grease 2–3 shallow pans. (You can use different size pans, including a pie dish.) Put the milk, water, sugar and cornstarch into a large pot and stir with a large stainless or wooden spoon until all ingredients are mixed well and the liquid is lump free and smooth.

Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium low. Start cooking the halwa while constantly stirring the milk. It will take approximately 10 minutes to start warming up. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat: Hurried cooking will curdle the milk and create lumps. Stir continuously for another 10 minutes while cooking.

When the milk starts thickening, add the butter in small pieces and the cardamon. Continue stirring until the milk thickens to the consistency of a smooth porridge. Total churning should be approximately 40 minutes. Pour immediately into the shallow, greased pans approximately 1-inch deep, and sprinkle with nuts.

Let cool completely at room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a few hours. Halwa is best prepared a day in advance.

Slice diagonally into diamonds before serving. Best when eaten within two days. Enjoy!
Note: The nuts traditionally are bought raw, blanched, peeled and sliced. The roasted unsalted nuts in the recipe are a shortcut.

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