Most Lebanese people do not bother with making intricate Arabic-style pastries at home. I mean, would you compete with someone who has been doing it 250 years?
I was spurred to try my hand at this by a reader from Athens; the gentleman in question must visit Beirut frequently since he mentioned getting it at Goodie’s, a well-known upscale grocer in the city. It is however considered a specialty from Tripoli.
It is very gooey-sweet. Good if you are lounging in a harem, with a cup of hot tea.
- 1 cup of rice flour
- 1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch, diluted in 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of rosewater (can add orange blossom too)
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground mastic (grind it in a mortar with a pinch of sugar, till powdery otherwise it will not mix with the liquid mixture) (it can be omitted, some people don’t like the taste of mastic)
- 1/2 cup of ground pistachios
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 1 cup of granulated white sugar
METHOD: Make the syrup first:
- Place the sugar and 3/4 cup of water on the stove over medium heat; stir to dissolve the sugar and let the syrup boil for 12 minutes. While the syrup is simmering, mix the rice flour with one cup of water in a bowl. Add to the simmering syrup a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and simmer for an extra 2 minutes. (The syrup should be a bit thick by now).
- Add the rice flour mixture (as well as the cornstarch mixture) to the simmering syrup little by little, stirring continuously. Lower the heat and continue to simmer the mixture at reduced heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.
- When the mixture turns lumpy, add the rosewater and the mastic. Continue the stirring until the mixture turns heavy and somewhat translucent.
- Place the saucepan on a work surface; transfer the content to a greased bowl, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Let the rice dough rest for a few hours or overnight, covering the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap.
- When ready to serve, scoop out a ball of rice dough, dip in a bowl of powdered sugar, and with the tip of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the middle. Place the clotted cream or ashta in the indentation. Sprinkle some ground pistachios on top and serve immediately.
For the ashta recipe, click here.
Level of difficulty: hard
Quantity will serve 12 people (2 per person)
Sources for the recipe:
Chef Ramzi’s The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon
Anahid’s Anahid’s Gourmet Cookbook
Leena Shbaro Beydoun ‘s Al-Helwayate al-arabiya wal-gharbiya.