Shana tovah u'metukah!
The exhortation to have a "good and sweet year" isn't just a figure of speech; it also guides the menu for celebrations of Rosh Hashanah for Jewish people around the world. This observance of the New Year brings the faithful together, for two nights in some communities and one night in others, in services to reflect upon and celebrate the year that has passed and the one that is to come.
The shofar -- the horn of a ram -- is blown, bread is tossed into the water to indicate the casting off of sins, prayers and poems are recited.
Then comes the feasting.
In keeping with the theme of a "sweet" year, dishes tend toward the honey-dipped and fruit-forward, with plum cake, apples drizzled in honey, and dessert wines often on the menu. Traditional challah bread is often served in a round rather then a long loaf to symbolize the cycle of life. Often, a "new fruit" -- one that's in season, but that the diners have not yet had a chance to sample -- is served as well. Pomegranates are a popular choice, as their seeds are numerous, as, hopefully, will be the eater's good deeds in the new year.
This feast of plenty will give way to a period of contemplation and atonement in the days leading up to the privation and fasting of Yom Kippur, but tonight -- eat sweetly.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization that operates in more than 70 countries around the globe, has compiled these regional Rosh Hashanah recipes from India, Siberia and Israel, as well as many more that can be found on their site and via their new app.
Cornflour-Coconut Halava (a specialty of the Bene Israel community)
Recipe courtesy of Rosy Solomon Moses of Mumbai, India.
2 1/4 cups cornstarch (in India, use corn flour)
A drop or two of pink, orange or red food coloring
2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons chopped almonds and pistachios
1 medium-sized coconut (or 1 can of thick coconut milk)
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Scrape coconut, grind in the mixer and extract coconut milk with warm water to measure 2 quarts. Sieve cornstarch and add to the coconut milk with sugar, a good pinch of salt and color.
Mix well and pour into a stove-top pan and cook on flame, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. Stir for about 30 minutes.
Pour a little in a plate, and if it comes out without sticking to the plate, add the margarine, half the nuts, cardamom and nutmeg powder. Mix well and pour onto 2 ungreased trays, 8” x 10”. Tilt to spread evenly. Sprinkle remaining nuts. Cool and cut into squares or diamonds. Keep overnight in the fridge if not consumed the same day.
Optional: You may want to add 1 packet of agar agar (a gelatin agent) in 1/2 cup of warm water, cook for 5 minutes more, before adding the margarine and nuts, for firmness and better taste of halava.