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). The recipe can be made with either milk or coconut milk diluted with water. 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. 

Look at the rosy halwa reel I made a year ago here, my son  and a yellow "turmeric" halwa reel I made over  two and half years ago here

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

Milk Halwa


2 liter whole milk (8 cups)
½ liter water (2 cups)
100 gr (bit less than 4 oz/1 stick) unsalted butter or unsalted margarine, cut into pieces
7 oz cornstarch
28 gr (1 oz) agar agar/China grass (optional/please read note at the bottom)*
1/2 kg (2 1/2 cups) sugar 
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 - 1/2  cup sliced, blanched and peeled raw pistachios (See notes below)
1/4 - 1/2 cup sliced, blanched and peeled raw almonds (See notes below)
Extra butter or margarine for greasing
Several drops of natural food coloring (optional)


1. For those who have nut allergies slice, blanched peeled, sliced raw pumpkin seeds or skinned and sliced edamame instead of almonds and pistachios.
2, You can substitute chopped, roasted almonds and pistachios or chopped, roasted pumpkin seeds instead blanching for a shortcut.


Grease 2-3 shallow pans  (thalis). You can use different size pans, including a pie dish. Off the heat, put the milk, water, sugar, cornstarch, and agar agar(optional) 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/high, Start cooking the halwa while constantly stirring the milk. It will take approximately 10 - 15 minutes to start warming up. Add the butter. 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 cardamon and several drops of natural food coloring (if desired). Continue stirring until the milk thickens further. The halwa will start sticking to the sides of the pan and the texture becomes smooth and will glisten. Stirring for approximately 45-50 minutes total. Pour immediately into the shallow, greased pans approximately 1- 1 1/2 inch deep, and sprinkle with sliced nuts, seeds or edamame.

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!

Watch halwa reel here and diamond slices and thali/pan here.

*Agar agar/China grass can be found in an Indian grocery store or online. Often, I make it without the agar agar, or with a reduced amount of agar agar, but if you are new to making halwa, adding the amount specified in the recipe will ensure the "gelling" the the halwa.

No comments:

Post a Comment