Love apricots! However, I have not had good luck with the fresh apricots sold in supermarkets. They are so often bland and pasty that I stopped buying them. I remember my excitement the first time I found the amardeen of my childhood in a middle-eastern store… we used to tear off pieces and lick them slowly.. This was an after-school snack, our Levantine fruit roll-up! Manufactured in Syria with apricots that come from the Ghouta region near Damascus, this apricot leather is to me the best! Very intense apricot flavor, with the tanginess that makes it so irresistible.
My mom would prepare a pudding from the amardeen that she would decorate in a very artsy way using pine nuts, almonds and pistachios. Easy to make. Delicious. With extra benefits: apricot is a remedy for anemia, as it is iron-rich. It is a gentle laxative, rich in Vitamin A and calcium and good for the eye and heart.
None of the cookbooks I had even mentioned this recipe, until I found it in The Arab Table, by May S. Bsisu. She calls it mohalabia kamar el deen, which is fitting since, just like the traditional mohalabia it is thickened with cornstarch and flavored with sugar and rose and orange blossom waters. Mrs. Bsisu also suggests combining both the traditional milk-based mohalabia and this amardeen pudding, one layer on top of the other. I love the idea, especially since in Lebanon they make an orange pudding and pour it on top. I prefer the tangy taste of apricots on top of milk.
INGREDIENTS: This quantity will serve 6 to 8 people or more if you use smaller goblets.
1 Large package of Amardeen (about 500g or 1 lb)
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of sugar or several tablespoons of syrup (atr) (or more, to taste)
1/2 cup of cornstarch
1 Tablespoon of orange blossom water, 1 Tablespoon of rose water (or more, to taste)
1/2 cup of almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, or any other nut that you like to use
- The night before: Cut the amardeen in large pieces and cover them with water. Leave it overnight and even a day longer in the fridge.
- The next day, puree this mixture in a blender till it is smooth. If you wish, strain it by running it through a sieve into the pot, but I personally don’t find this step necessary. However, it is a good idea to keep track of how many cups you end up with, to calculate how much thickening agent you are going to need. You should have about 6 cups.
- In a large pot, pour the apricot puree, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in some water and add to the apricot mixture once it starts steaming. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Keep stirring for about 3 minutes and then pour the mixture, this time through a sieve, into a container with a spout.
- Divide the pudding into small goblets or one large platter.
Decorate the surface of the pudding after it has set with a medley of nuts. Sahteyn!
If you feel like combining milk and apricot flavors, prepare the muhallabia first. Use the same quantities as for the apricot.
4 cups of whole milk (or lowfat)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of cornstarch
1 Tablespoon of orange blossom water and rose water combined
- Place 3 cups of milk and the sugar in a saucepan. Mix the one cup of remaining milk with the cornstarch in a separate little bowl.
- Heat the milk and sugar till it steams. Now add the cornstarch and stir till it bubbles and thicken, a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the blossom and rose water and stir for a few seconds. Pour through a strainer into the serving bowl or bowls.
- Let it cool at room temperature and then refrigerate.
NOTE: It is always possible to thicken more if the pudding is not getting as thick as you like by adding, one tablespoon at a time of cornstarch diluted in a bit of water. Wait for the mixture to thicken then add the cornstarch and stir constantly until thick. Pour through a strainer into the goblet. It should thicken within 3 minutes of constant stirring.