Taken from Middle Eastern Sweets: Desserts, Pastries, Creams & Treats, by Salma Hage (Phaidon, £24.95)
Embodying everything that's special about Lebanese hospitality, this comforting milk pudding is both rich and nutty and is topped with jewels of Middle Eastern flavours: pistachios, barberries, and rose petals.
Plenty of modern recipes call for cornstarch (cornflour) instead of rice flour, but I implore you to try making this pudding with the more traditional ground rice for a rounded, toasty flavour.
- 1 litre whole milk
- 100g ground rice
- 1tbs rose water
- 1tsp mahleb
- 2 mastic grains, ground with a pinch of sugar
- 40g caster sugar
- 50g raw pistachios, roughly chopped
- 40g dried barberries
- 2g dried rose petals
- Orange blossom syrup, to serve (see below)
Pour the milk into a large saucepan and warm over a low heat. Gradually pour in the ground rice and cook, stirring all the time, until completely combined. Add the rose water, mahleb, mastic and sugar, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring regularly over a low heat, until the mixture is deeply aromatic and thickened.
Remove the pan from the heat and ladle the muhallabieh into four to six bowls or serving glasses. Divide the pistachios, barberries and rose petals between the portions, and drizzle a teaspoon of syrup over each.
Eat straight away.
Orange blossom syrup
Orange blossom water, like rose water, is a byproduct of distilling the flowers for their essential oils. In the Middle East, its scent is almost omnipresent – wafting out of kitchen windows after being poured over flaky baklava to enjoy with a hot coffee; in the markets; even in water jugs, where it is added to mask unpleasant flavours such as high mineral content in tap water. Most commonly in the kitchen, though, it is used to make orange blossom syrup, a thick, pourable sugar syrup to add sweetness and flavour to all manner of pastries and cakes. Although the flavour is markedly different, it's used in much the same way as rose water syrup in baking.
- 200g golden caster sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 1tbs orange blossom water
Put the sugar into a saucepan with the 200ml of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for three minutes, then stir in the lemon juice and orange zest and the orange blossom water.
Make sure that the syrup is warm when drizzling it over the sweet or pastry.
Photography by XLiz and Max Haarala Hamilton
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