This is the title of a famous song (with Chris de Burgh and ElissaLebanese night ) but it is also the name of a famous dessert in Beirut. My cousin had been urging me to try it… “you have got to go with me to El-Ajami and order their layalee lubnan, it is to die for!” So, off we went one day and of course it was de-li-cious!!!! The muhallabiyeh was silky-smooth, the ashta on top was fluffy and creamy, the sliced bananas tasty and soft , the almonds crunchy…a dessert made in heaven.
So, I had to try to make it at home.
I made it in 2 stages. I made the muhallabiyeh one day, then the following day I made the ashta and the atter. The garnishing can be done at the last minute with variations based on what you have in your pantry. I like bananas and I like pomegranate seeds for the tartness and the color contrast. Some people like to add preserved dates and pistachios. I think it is a big winner as far as desserts go because it is loved by everyone and can be made with lowfat milk and cream without damaging the flavor.
INGREDIENTS: Quantity to serve 4 to 6 people. It can be halved or doubled.
- 4 cups of milk
- 4 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 ounces of water to make a paste
- 4 Tablespoons of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of rose water and 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water
- Place the milk and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat and stir until it starts steaming.
- Add the cornstarch paste and keep stirring until the mixture thickens.
- Add the flavoring and stir some more.
- Remove from the heat and pour through a sieve into a large serving bowl or individual bowls.
- Let it cool then refrigerate.
TO MAKE ASHTA AND SYRUP:
From Lebanese Cuisine by Anissa Helou, adapted.
To make Ashta:
- 2 slices of American white toast bread
- 2 cups of half-and-half (light cream)
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch diluted in a bit of light cream or milk
- Place the bread on a cutting board and cut the crusts off. Cut the remaining bread in small cubes.
- Pour the half-and-half in a heavy-bottom saucepan and add the bread cubes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes or so, until the bread cubes have completely dissolved into the cream, stirring as much as possible and watching the heat to prevent the cream from burning at the bottom. When the mixture starts steaming, add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened.
- Turn off the heat, pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool. It will thicken and form a thin crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few days until needed.
To make the atter (syrup):
- 2 cups of sugar
- 3/4 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of rose water and 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
- Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring from time to time. Boil for 5 minutes then add the flavoring and boil 30 seconds longer.
- Turn off the heat and let the syrup cool. It can be kept in a jar and refrigerated for a few weeks, to use as needed.
- If you want to unmold the pudding, use a nonstick mold and run some icy water on it ( it worked for me )
- Unmold the pudding onto a serving dish by pressing a towel moistened with very hot water on the back of it.
- Place a few tablespoons of ashta on top of the muhallabiyeh.
- Slice a banana and place the slices around the cream.
- Sprinkle almonds or pistachios or pomegranate seeds on top of the bananas.
- Drizzle some syrup or honey over the pudding or serve on the side.
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