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MENA Cooking Club: Bahraini Halwa

bahraini halwa recipe
As-Salaamu Alaykum,

It's time to reveal what we have all been cooking up in the MENA cooking club this month.

Joanne from what's on the list is our host this month and we are cooking Bahraini style!

She gave us the option of Chicken Machbous and this Halwa recipe.

I made both (for chicken machbous click here) but first, bahraini halwa; originally from the island of Zanzibar, in Tanzania and came to Bahrain via way of the Omanis.

Whilst making the halwa I made a few forgivable mistakes Alhamdulillah it didn't end in disaster!

The long process results in a soft halwa/sweet, slightly chewy, studded with a mixture of nuts and has an exotic depth stemming from the 'queen of spice' cardamom, cinnamon and rose water.

I halved the original recipe hoping for a small batch but really this recipe still serves at least 6.

This halwa can be quite daunting as it has many steps so i've shared a few photos of how to do it  not to do it in some instances!
ground cardamom
Infuse saffron threads in a little water for at least an hour which i haven't got a photo of and then i set to freshly grinding some green cardamom. I only managed to get about 1/2 tablespoon plus a 1/4 teaspoon before my arm gave up.
bahraini halwa recipe
I attempted a brown butter by heat butter for 3 minutes in a skillet but this although it didn't taste burnt looks it! The recipe says strain but how? it didn't help as the dark bits still went through my fine mesh sieve! I didn't have any butter left to start over so i went with it and infused the butter with some of my cardamom and ground cinnamon. I used cinnamon instead of nutmeg in the original recipe.
bahraini halwa recipe
Mix together until smooth cornflour(starch not polenta!), rose water, water and a bit of that red food colour paste i found lurking at the back of the cupboard that was missing from my rose halwa last month.
bahraini halwa recipe
In a medium size saucepan on a medium-high heat place sugar, water, lemon juice plus that saffron infused water stir until sugar dissolves bring to boil and then...
                                          bahraini halwa recipe
Set your timer to 45 minutes and press start.
bahraini halwa recipe
Cover and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat then...
bahraini halwa recipe
Gradually stir in rapeseed oil then cover and cook for another 5 minutes, Stir, cover and cook another 5 minutes then uncover and stir every 5 minutes.
bahraini halwa recipe
At 30 minutes add ground cardamom and cinnamon, stir.
                                 bahraini halwa recipe
bahraini halwa recipe
When I wasn't busy stirring I toasted a mix of nuts in a hot pan and then roughly chopped them but you can do this beforehand if you prefer, less stress.
bahraini halwa recipe

Halwa at various stages
                                bahraini halwa recipe
At  the 15 minute mark stir continuously until you reach 5 minutes
The recipe then states to remove excess oil which in my case had disappeared / been absorbed i didn't tilt the pan to see if there was any hiding but hey it's all good rapeseed oil is high in vitamin e! Now stir in your infused brown butter and keep stirring until the time hits 0.

bahraini halwa recipe
 Turn off the heat and stir in 3/4 of the nuts then carefully pour onto plate, mould, ice cube tray I used basically everything i had in my line of sight.
bahraini halwa recipe
Leave to cool and set before eating. The colour lightens after a few days.
bahraini halwa recipe
bahraini halwa recipe
bahraini halwa recipe

Bahraini Halwa

Adapted from 196 Flavours
Serves: at least 6
Preparation time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Measurement used: 1 UK Cup = 250ml


2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon ground cardamom, plus 1/4 teaspoon for the butter
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/4 teaspoon for the butter
5 saffron threads
1/2 cup cornflour (starch)
1/2 cup water for the corn starch mixture
a very small amount of red food colouring paste
3/4 cup rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon rose water
1 cup toasted nuts
1 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds


  1. Place saffron in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon hot water, stir and leave to infuse for 1 hour. If freshly grinding your cardamom pods then remove seeds from a handful of pods and grind in pestle and mortar. In a frying pan toast nuts and roughly chop and set aside.

  2. In a frying pan on medium to high heat cook butter for 3 minutes then remove from heat and transfer to small bowl then add cinnamon and cardamon. Set aside.

  3. Combine cornstarch, rose water, food colouring and 1/2 cup water. Mix until smooth.

  4. In a medium size pot pour sugar, water, infused saffron and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat.

  5. Set timer to 45 minutes. Stir cornstarch mixture into syrup then cover and press Start on your timer. Cook for 5 minutes.

  6. Gradually add in rapeseed oil and mix well.Cover and cook for another 5 minutes then uncover and stir every 5 minutes.

  7. At the time 30 minutes stir in your cardamom and cinnamon.

  8. For last 15 minutes stir continuously. Large bubbles will form. 

  9. During the last 5 minutes remove any excess oil and add in the brown butter and continue to stir until time reaches 0. Turn off heat and stir in 3/4 of your nuts. 

  10. Pour into desired serving dish, plate etc and top with sesame seeds and remainder of nuts. Leave on the counter top to cool  and set before serving. Store in airtight container at room temperature. 
This halwa will lighten in colour over time but don't let that alarm you.

Ideally served with Arabic / Turkish coffee to balance out the sweetness.

Check out how other members got on with this months recipes.

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At 10 August 2014 at 06:01 , Blogger mickeydownunder said...

G'day and As-Salaamu Alaykum to you!
What a wonderful recipe and photo you submitted! Thank you for being this month's host and sharing the food love for you!
Cheers! Joanne @What's On The List

At 10 August 2014 at 13:06 , Blogger Sadaf F K. said...

Ehhh this is most tempting halwa I ever seen. Love you step by step method and pictures are so good MashaAllah. :)

At 10 August 2014 at 13:12 , Blogger Umm Hamza Harley said...

jazakAllahu khairan ukhti believe it or not these pictures were all taken with my phone and with a little help from our well loved friend VSCO cam.

At 10 August 2014 at 13:13 , Blogger Umm Hamza Harley said...

oh and picmonkey for the text, can't forget the monkey haha

At 12 August 2014 at 20:44 , Blogger Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

Your halwa looks just so amazing, great pics. I did find it daunting but I'll have to give it a try some day.

At 12 August 2014 at 22:23 , Blogger Umm Hamza Harley said...

Thank you and yes you should :)

At 13 August 2014 at 11:45 , Blogger Bake and the City said...

The colour of this dish got me quite intrigued! It's not a dish I've had before, but would definitely try it. I love stuff with nuts in, especially pistachio and cashews will get me very excited! Is it quite a sweet dish? :-)

At 13 August 2014 at 13:03 , Blogger Umm Hamza Harley said...

Thanks for stopping by Bee (got your email) Yes Halwa literally means sweet in the arabic language.


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