Rice cream and rosewater jelly with nuts (Moubattaneh)

Kamal Mouzawak was describing a dessert his grandmother used to make, a sort of pudding made of rice and covered with walnuts and syrup. He was getting so lyrical about it, I was fascinated. I was picturing a grandma, wearing a  bun and an apron, stirring and stirring rice in a big pot until it was thick;  letting it cool outside in the terrace, ladling it out to her grandchildren, with the walnuts and syrup on top for a special treat.

I wanted to find that recipe.

In our world, where every food item under the sun is available at our neighborhood supermarket, from Italian cold cuts to Hungarian spices to Thai curries, I can’t help but be drawn to those recipes devised by people who had little at their disposal. A little rice, some nuts from the trees nearby, a bit of sugar.

I found a recipe in Nada Saleh New Flavours of the Lebanese Table, in which she describes an old-time dessert, made with rice mashed into a cream and a top layer of nuts and rose water jelly;  probably not Kamal’s grandmother’s, but it will do. I have adapted the recipe to simplify its execution.


  • 1 cup of short-grain rice, such as sushi rice or risotto rice
  • 2 1/2  cups of water (to cook the rice in)
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1/4 cup (or so) of cream (can use a can of ashta, reduce the amount of milk accordingly)
  • a few pebbles of mastic ( freeze the mastic for one hour, then  place in a plastic bag and grind up with a rolling pin till powdery)
  • 1 (or more) tablespoon of rose water
  • a handful of nuts, soaked in water (I also used some candied walnuts)
  • 2   tablespoons of cornstarch (can use wheat starch instead)
  • 1/2 cup (or more, to taste) of sugar


  1. Soak the nuts in water.
  2. Cook the rice in about 2 1/2  cups of boiling water until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes, and has absorbed most of the water; if there is still a lot of water left in the pot, drain most of it and replace it with milk and cream. Add a few tablespoons of sugar (to taste) and cook the rice some more, until the mixture is a moist and gooey mass. Add the mastic and stir to distribute the flavor evenly.
  3. Cool the rice mixture a bit and pour into the food processor in batches. Puree until the mixture is smooth and velvety, adding more milk if needed. Cool in a serving platter or ramequins.

  1. Sprinkle the nuts over the rice cream.
  2. Make the rose water jelly; dilute 2  tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water. Heat 1 3/4 cups of water in a saucepan; add about 3 (or more, to taste) tablespoons of sugar, stir to dissolve; when the water starts to steam, add the cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until it bubbles and thickens; add the rose water and stir.
  3. Pour onto the rice cream through a strainer. Cool and serve. (If the mixture does not thicken, it is fine to repeat the operation adding a bit more cornstarch and diluting it in water, then mixing it in)

NOTE: Mastic is imported from Greece and is used extensively in Lebanese sweets and even savory dishes; it is available online or at Greek or Middle-Eastern grocers; it comes in very small jars or pouches and consists of clear pebbles that come from the resin of a specific bush. Freeze the pebbles and grind them (they will not dissolve easily otherwise) or mash them with a bit of sugar in a mortar.

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  1. Posted August 31, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I felt in love with this recipe….I will try to find Mastic here….Abrazos, Marcela

  2. Posted August 31, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    This has such a lovely, delicate topping – it looks like antique lace.

    Posted August 31, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    This is really just an elegant pudding, and keeps that tradition alive. It tastes like a giant bear hug, I love the smell of mastic gum, as you grind them you can hear them crackling, then you take a little nose pad, it is really floral and aromatic, I love how the rice is studded with crunchy almonds and walnuts, this makes an elegant ending to any meal.

  4. Posted August 31, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I love the flavors you used in this recipe. It is great that you can find mastiha there. It gives such a great aroma to sweets.

  5. Posted August 31, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh my gosh Jouamana, you tempt me with another delicious recipe :)

  6. Posted August 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    very unique and beautiful dessert..lovely pics too especially the first one..

  7. Posted August 31, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I recently bought a whole tin of mastic to make a Syrian ice cream called Ema. I was wondering what other recipes I could use mastic in, so I’m happy you posted this! It looks delicious and so elegant, Joumana!

  8. Posted August 31, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s such a pretty dessert! You’re so lucky to have so many options at your markets. I’ve never used mastic, but I hope to try it one of these days.

  9. Posted August 31, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    I would love to try the mastic. I am sure I have seen it in Middle Eastern stores but didn’t know what it was.

  10. Posted August 31, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely gorgeous and dreamy looking. I am struck by how similar this is to a dessert made by one of my Vietnamese friends. Flavours vary, but the idea is almost exactly the same.
    SO COOL!

  11. Posted August 31, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    looks so lovely

  12. Posted September 1, 2010 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    this looks light refreshing and simply sensational! love it!

  13. Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    A very unique dessert! The first pic is awesome :-)

  14. Posted September 1, 2010 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    Ca donne un très joli résultat !

  15. Posted September 1, 2010 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Very interesting recipe for me! Look so divine! Lovely dish and the topping is very elegant!

  16. Posted September 1, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Absolutely delicious! I love rose water and have heard about mastic before but never used it (I will try and locate some onine). Thanks for the recipe :-)

  17. Posted September 1, 2010 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Wow, this is so unique. i love the idea of puree-ing the cooked rice into a fine texture. And the rose jelly…wow. Sounds amazing!

  18. Posted September 1, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I gained five pounds just looking at the pictures!

  19. Posted September 1, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    What a delightfully unusual dessert, Joumana! :-) I love the vision of the grandmother you had in your head. :-) Somehow that makes this dish even more special. :-)

  20. Posted September 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    The layers look so pretty, this is definitely an impressive desert!
    *kisses* HH

  21. Posted September 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Il faut absolument essayer cette recette.
    La lecture de la recette me fait déjà saliver.
    Bonne semaine et à bientôt.

  22. Posted September 1, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    The dessert looks so elegant and beautiful!

  23. Posted September 1, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    This – looks lyrical. I will be looking for mastic…Funny the grandmother-visions we concoct!

  24. Posted September 1, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    This sounds amazing to try, especially with the rosewater jelly!

  25. Posted September 2, 2010 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen mastic at the shops but haven’t used it before. This sounds lovely.

  26. Posted September 2, 2010 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    I love rose flavoring in desserts…it adds such a floral, quaint note to them. This looks like it tastes lyrical :P

  27. Posted September 2, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    This is an incredibly elegant dessert. I love the simplicity and the flavors. It sounds wonderful!

  28. Posted September 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I love everything you make. I feel like I don’t even have to test out the recipe… I just can tell that it tastes wonderfully. Thanks for the pic of mastic. I think I have seen it in middle eastern grocery stores, but did not have a reason in using them. Your rice dessert looks great! Your blog is also making me want to move to Beirut. I added you blog on my homepage as one of my favorite blogs. Thanks for all your inspiration.

  29. Posted September 2, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    This is such an interesting dish and looks absolutely stunning!

  30. Posted September 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I can picture the grandma too, my grandma :-) I guess it is the same lyrical memories with all grandmas. This sounds like a dream.. ah the flavors! Also very similar to the kheer (indian rice pudding, but cardamom is used instead of mastic) or the phirni (same as kheer but made with powdered rice).. I am finding the rose jelly very intriguing.

  31. Posted September 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    So beautiful :) The rosewater must add such a delicate touch…

  32. Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
    This dish looks and sounds just stunning – i can’t wait for the weather to warm up a little here to try it!

  33. Posted September 3, 2010 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Such a beautiful dessert, I can taste the flavours already Joumana!

  34. Posted September 4, 2010 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    This reminds me of my teta. Something she would make. Very nostalgic and also very tasty im sure!!!

  35. Posted September 6, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow, I did not grow up with the taste of rosewater, but I certainly have a love for it, it makes everything just special. This dessert sounds like the perfect example.

  36. Posted September 11, 2010 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Encore une de tes recettes qui mettent l’eau à la bouche rien qu’en regardant les photos… je crois qu’elle sera prochainement à l’honneur chez moi ;)

  37. Marie-Claire
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Joumana, où puis-je trouver le mastic à Dallas? Bisous, Marie-Claire
    PS: je ne peux pas attendre de faire cette recette: j’adore l’eau de rose!

  38. Joumana
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    @Marie-Claire: le mastic se trouve dans toutes les épiceries “ethnic”; il y en a au moins 3 sur Spring Valley, celle ou je vais “Sara Bakery” est sur Spring Valley/Sherman; ils ont tout et c’est propre et raisonnable. Bisous.
    Au fait si tu aimes l’eau de rose, tu peux voir j’ai plein de recette plus faciles avec de l’eau de rose; je vais t’envoyer les liens.

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