Rice pudding with tahini, turmeric and pine nuts(Moufataka)

I was born and raised in Beirut and when I left (due to war),  I never imagined that the food we ate at home was specific to our Greek-Catholic community. I thought all Beirutis ate the same dishes. Much to my surprise, I discovered, while in America, that there were a lot of traditional Beirut-dishes I had never tasted before!

Moufataka is one of them. It is a traditional dessert from Beirut, specifically  made in Sunni communities. I read about it in a book that was just published Rural Cuisine in Lebanon by Chérine Yazbeck; I was visiting a friend and her neighbor, Mrs. Shbaro, told me about moufataka and said she orders it every week and loves it and  would take me to the place that makes it.

Now if you really want to get a feel for traditional Beirut, Basta is  the neighborhood to visit; our mufataka maker was located there.  Gracious, warm and  laid-back  in the authentic Beiruti-style, Hajj  Makari  and his partner   allowed me  to take pictures, gave me the recipe and  explained  the intricacies of moufataka; in short,  it requires a lot of stirring. The name of the dish translates into “unsewn”, in other words, the ingredients are cooked to death until they lose their initial texture and meld into an extra-moist, sweet, fragrant mass  with a silky, doughy texture and a golden hue to brighten your day.


Origin of moufataka: According to Hajj Makari and Hachem, this dish was born in 1880 and is proper to Ras Beirut (West Beirut). Families used to make it and take it to an area near the beach (now filled with tall buildings)  called Ramlet al-bayda (tr: white sand dunes) and the children would play with kites and their parents would eat it. It was an outing on the last Wednesday of April, in commemoration of the prophet Ya’oob (Job).

I used the quantities in Ms.Yazbeck La Cuisine Libanaise du Terroir. If you are in Beirut and want to order it at Makari & Hashem, phone # (01) 643-423.

INGREDIENTS: Serving 6

  • 250 g of  Italian rice
  • water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of turmeric
  • 250 g of tahini
  • 500 g of white sugar
  • a handful of pine nuts ( about 50 g)

First step: Soaking then boiling rice and turmeric in water.

Second step: Mixing tahini, sugar and pine nuts well.

Until a compact mass is formed.

Third step: Adding the rice to the tahini mixture  gradually.

Now you start stirring and stirring…

METHOD:

The day before:

  1. Soak the rice in enough water to cover by 2 inches.
  2. Add the turmeric to the water.

The next day:

  1. Bring the rice to a boil and cook the rice until there is no longer any water visible.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, pour the tahini, sugar and pine nuts.
  3. Stir the tahini mixture.  Add to this mixture the rice.
  4. Over low heat, using a large spoon, stir the rice and tahini mixture constantly.  Listen to your favorite music if you wish because the stirring will take a while (at least 45 minutes).
  5. When the mixture bubbles gently and the pine nuts  and tahini oil rise up to the surface it is getting ready. One way to tell is to lift the mixture and let it drop back and see how thick and creamy it looks. If it is thick, creamy, homogenous, it is ready.
  6. Pour into a serving dish, let it cool at room temperature.

NOTE:

Mrs. Shbaro very kindly ordered a plate for us and we loved it at home and licked it clean that  same day. My parents both loved it and want to order it again. My cousin did not like it, but then she says it is because of the taste of tahini. It will remind you ofhalvah.

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15 Comments

  1. Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing! That rice pudding is surely delicious!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Posted January 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    excellent reportage!!!!! grand bravo et merci pour la belle recette très appétissante..bisous

  3. Posted January 5, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Typique encore, traditionnel et vraiment savoureux…

  4. Posted January 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I am hungry! I wish I could taste it.

  5. Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Looks delicious…..Never heard of rice pudding with turmeric…

  6. dana
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful documentary work as always. Never heard of this dish before. I dont think Southerners prepare it but it looks very tempting.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Marhaba Joumana
    I tasted the Moufataka once and didnt like it (I was born and raised in Mouseitbeh – West Beirut)
    I cannot tell if the person who prepared it did it right or wrong… since then never attempt to try it again,
    did you like the flavour and taste???
    seems you are having fun in Beirut, and enjoying the gorgeous weather, and I am covered with a meter of snow here in North Bay…

  8. Posted January 7, 2010 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumana. Great post! That’s a dessert I have never heard of before. I’ll hunt it down on my next trip.
    Great job once again. I loved this post!

  9. Posted January 7, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    The tumeric gives this rice pudding the look of it having pumpkin in it. Well, the spices are in there. The aroma of this while it’s simmering must be very exotic.

  10. Posted January 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I haven’t had this for so long. Might have to call my mum and ask her to make it for me!

  11. Posted January 9, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Tahini in combination with rice pudding sounds amazing.

  12. Posted January 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Merci pour ce partage, une jolie découverte !

  13. ziad
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Super,
    Merci car je cherchais ce plat depuis plus de dix ans.
    Ce sont des plats en voie de disparition.

  14. zoon
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Mrs Yazbeck picked recipes from all over lebanon, and it was great to collect those to try to make our culinary patrimony survive throughout the years,

    however there are two elements that she has not taken into consideration with regards to Mufattkah recipe:
    - historical origin: Mufattkah has never been exclusive to the Greek Catholic community which I am part of, and neither to the region of Beirut. Sunna people of the Sidon and the region are still doing it at home and pastry shops, and it is a long culinary heritage. You can still visit Al Baba, Al Anwar, Iskandarani, or else in Saida and find Mufattka.
    - cooking time: stiring is supposed to last 4 hours at least at very low heat, and because of the long time you spend stiring, you end up being “torn apart”, this is why this desert is called Mufattkah (the tearing apart).
    - linguistic meaning: Mufattkah the tearing apart (or unsewing) desert (for the reasons just highlighted in point 2). if we say Mufattakah (it makes it unsewn). this is a common error proper to arabic language, because the a between the t and k is shown in arabic by an accent and not a letter. and usually accents are not typed except in pedagogic books or articles. so people might get confused. This reminds me of the word khayar. the a between h and y is reflected by an accent (fat-ha), which makes it mean, the choice. if we pronounce it khyar (the accent will be (soukoun, or “silent”) it makes it mean cucumber. khayar and khyar are written exactly the same way in arabic, it is just a matter of accent, indeed, but this makes the whole difference of meaning.

    Also, I noticed that the book of Mrs Yazbeck reflect many errors despite its big value. ie linguistic error: Bouabné instead of Bou Amné (father of Amné) (p27 of her book)
    ie time of cooking : freekeh, mouffatkah and others (I think she did not test them herself)
    ie: identification of ingredients mixing up two different ingredients like (i) baking powder and yeast (levure chimique au lieu de levure de boulanger/I have the french version of her book) which are totally of different effect when cooked (recipes of fatayer bi sabenekh (p132) and Tlamé bi laban (p205) (ii) carvi and curcuma (she defines carvi as curcuma) which are absolutely different ingredients (carawya and curcum also called oqda safra) in the recipe of Meghli (p204).

    These comments are meant to clarify some realities and not to reduce the value of the above mentioned book.

  15. Joumana
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    @Zoon: Thank you so much! Your detailed comments are so appreciated at my end! I thought mufattkah was exclusive to the Sunni community.

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