This is a dessert for lovers of rose-water.
Plain, it is a lovely, cheap, everyday dessert for kids or, if dressed up with crystallised rose petals and/or crushed nuts, stands its own as a perfect finale to a Middle Eastern dinner party.
When I first started this blog, my friend, Colette, suggested I do a post on my rice pudding as she considered it my signature dish, but I somehow I never got around to it.
My love affair with this dessert started nearly 30 years ago. Maus, another friend and I had dined in a Middle Eastern restaurant – I presume Lebanese but I can’t remember – and the proprietor asked if we wanted dessert. By this time, Maus and I were full but our friend succumbed and the proprietor brought out a little dish of Muhallabia. Suddenly, I wasn’t full anymore. I started digging in to my friend’s dessert. I loved it.
I found a recipe for it in Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food and started making it. I was on a mission to replicate the flavour and texture of that lovely dessert I’d sampled in the restaurant. I made it quite a few times, adjusting the cornflour and rosewater to get the consistency and taste just as I remembered it.
This dish is usually served in a glass bowl and topped with chopped almonds or pistachios. But I decided to be fancy and mould it. If you want to try moulding it, you will need to oil your moulds in a neutral oil. You may also need to add additional rice flour and/or cornflour so that it sets a little firmer and holds its shape. Normally, these quantities will produce a dessert firm enough to mould but this time, I used a different rice flour and it was a bit loose.
- 3 tsp cornflour
- 60g rice flour
- 1 litre of milk
- 90g sugar
- 3 tbs rosewater*
- Chopped almonds, pistachio or crystallised rose petals to decorate.
*These are 15 mil tablespoons.
Traditionally, this dessert would have been made in a pot over the stove but I find it much easier to make it in the microwave.
- Mix the cornflower, rice flour and sugar in a microwave-proof bowl.
- Add enough milk to make a smooth paste.
- Slowly add the rest of the milk (a little at a time), stirring after each addition to ensure there are no lumps. If you do end up with some lumps, give it a whizz or two with a stick blender.
- Once everything is combined, microwave on high for two minutes.
- Stir, and then microwave on high for a minute. Stir again. Continue microwaving and stirring until mixture comes to the boil and thickens.
- Microwave for an additional minute.
- Add the rosewater and stir.
- Pour into one large glass bowl or individual glass bowls.
- Place in refrigerator to cool.
- Serve cool, decorated with crystallised rose petals* and/or almonds or pistachios.
* To crystallise rose petals, choose an old-fashioned perfumed pink rose. Pull the rose apart. Using tweezers to hold the petals, dip individual petals in lightly beaten egg white and then into caster sugar. Set aside to dry.