Khabeessa was first brought to my attention by Leila, who left a comment asking if I knew about it; well, I did not. Just like moufattaka, it is a dessert that is specific to the Sunni communities in Beirut. Beirut, Ras Beirut to be exact (the part of the city that is on the west side, facing the mediterranean) was originally a town inhabited by a majority of sunnis and greek- orthodox families, with a sprinkling of greek- catholics, sephardic jews, druze and other confessions. Each community coexisted and had its own traditions. I never tasted khabeessa growing up, so I was eager to try it!
I got the recipe and instructions for it from Hajj Makari and Hashem, who also make it to order. Basta (01) 643 423 and from the book Al-helwayate al-arabiya wal-gharbiya, Sima Shbaro.
It is a jelly, thickened with wheat starch, flavored with rosewater and mastic and studded with walnuts.
IF YOU LIKE LOUKOUM, YOU WILL LOVE IT! Its sweetness is offset by the crunch of the walnuts. It has an opalescent appearance and a diaphanous texture.
INGREDIENTS: This quantity will yield 6 servings
- 3/4 cup of wheat starch
- 1 1/2 cup of sugar
- 2 1/2 cups of water
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground mastic (optional) or miski (grind the pebbles with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar)
- 250 g of walnuts, peeled and chopped coarsely
- 1 Tablespoon of rose water
- Place the walnuts in a bowl and cover with water. Let them sit in the water for at least 30 minutes, then rub the skins off with your fingertips. Remove and pat dry on paper towels.
- Place the water and sugar and starch in a heavy-bottomed pan and stir continuously until the mixture boils.
- Cook and stir for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.
- Add the mastic previously ground with a pinch of sugar. Keep stirring for a few more minutes.
- Add the chopped walnuts and the rose water and keep stirring until thickened even more.
- Pour into shallow serving bowls or a large serving dish if you wish to cut in small squares. Cool in the refrigerator. When the khabeessa is cold it will be easy to cut in squares.
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