This month, The Cookbook Guru is featuring Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf. One great thing about trying out recipes for the Cookbook Guru is you get to do a post even when the recipe is a dud. Normally, if a recipe is a dud, I write next to it, “Once is enough” and move on. But the Cookbook Guru wants us to critique recipes in the featured cookbook.
As I have mentioned more than once, I am a big fan of Muhallabia. I have been making a modified version of Claudia Roden’s recipe for about 30 years. So, when I saw Greg had a version in Saha (Lebanese milk pudding with passionfruit (Passionfruit Muhallabeya)), I thought I would give it a go. It is always good to compare your version against others.
Greg’s recipe was flavoured with orange blossom water rather than rose water. Orange blossom water is always an alternative to rose water in Muhallabia, but I never use it. It reminds me of the fragrance 4711, which was all the rage in the 70’s and the fragrance of choice in airline toilets for many years. In this instance, I decided to go with orange blossom water as I didn’t think rose water would complement passionfruit.
Greg’s recipe also has mastic in it. I had bought some mastic when I was last in Sydney and was yet to use it so I was keen. That may have been my down fall.
I thought the recipe was a bit weird on a number of accounts. Firstly, it had one cup of water in it. I don’t understand why a milk pudding would have water in it. Milk is not particularly rich so there is no need to dilute it.
My other concern was the omission of rice flour. The recipe relied on cornflour to thicken the milk/water and it soon became very evident there was no where near enough starch to thicken it. I don’t know why I persisted but I sieved the mixture and put it in individual glasses to cool and thicken. When that did not happen, to save the day, I poured (yes, poured) the pudding out of the glasses and back into the bowl, added 50g of rice flour and started cooking it all over again. This solved the thickness issue but the texture still wasn’t quite right.
The next problem was the passionfruit. I like passionfruit (a lot) but it is very strongly flavoured. It overwhelmed the subtle orange blossom water. There was no melding of flavours whatsoever. It was not a good combination.
The orange blossom water was not as bad as I remember the scent 4711. I actually did not mind it. It was nice and fresh, although I still prefer rose water.
I have no idea what effect, if any, the mastic had.
Overall, the recipe was very unsatisfactory and not to be repeated.
If you have had a similarly bad experience with Muhallabia, please, do not give up. Try this version – a good Muhallabia is fantastic.