Mehalabeya – a classic Middle Eastern Pudding

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Mehalabeya is a classic Middle Eastern pudding that is extremely light and scented with orange blossom & rose water. It’s a perfect treat after a heavy meal.

My earliest memories of Mehalabeya are from the iftars sent by our Saudi neighbors. My mother always sent an iftar platter to neighbors during Ramadan. We would happily help her prepare the iftar and volunteer to deliver it too because of the anticipation that we will get an iftar platter back soon! There’s something so positive and uplifting about getting a surprise plate of food. Maybe it’s because we get tired of our own cooking and yearn to try different flavors and tastes. If someone rang the bell before iftar time, there would be a scramble to open the door. The person who got to the door first would then proudly bear the food laden tray inside while we all peer at what delicious goodies were sent. Our Saudi neighbors would always have Cheese sambousek and Mehalabeya in addition to other food items.

I have always had a soft spot for this pudding. Maybe it’s because I love the taste and scent of rose water. You can always make a vanilla flavored pudding too but I used both orange blossom and rose water to give it a traditional taste. Usually the Muhallebi would be left as is and just topped with crushed pistachios. But I have prepared a rose syrup topping to further enhance the rose flavor. I had this kind of Mehalabeya pudding at an iftar buffet in Saudi Arabia once. It was divine! The silky pudding complementing the rose topping and the crunch of the pistachios! So delicious!! I’m happy to say that I’ve recreated that childhood flavor. You can omit the rose topping and flavor the pudding with vanilla if you prefer. But I would encourage you to try it my way atleast once!

Mehalabeya – a classic Middle Eastern milk Pudding infused with a whiff of rose & orange blossom water.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • Whole milk – 1/4 cup
  • Half & half – 1 1/4 cup
  • Heavy whipping cream – 1/2 cup
  • Sugar, granulated – 1/4 cup
  • Cornstarch- 1/4 cup
  • Orange blossom water – 1/2 tsp
  • Rose water – 1/2 tsp

For the rose topping:

  • Rose syrup – 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Water – 1/4 cup
  • Cornstarch – 2 tbsp
  • Red food coloring- a few drops

For the pistachio topping:

  • Butter, unsalted – 1 tsp
  • Pistachios, unsalted & crushed – 1/4 cup
  • Sugar, granulated – 1/2 tbsp

Method:

  • In a saucepan, combine milk, half & half and heavy cream. Add in sugar and cornstarch and whisk well until all lumps are dissolved.
  • Set the pan on medium-high heat and bring to a full boil, whisking constantly. Let the mixture bubble for a minute.
  • Remove pan from heat and add the flavor waters or vanilla.
  • Pour into bowls/jars/cups and refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the rose topping.
  • Whisk together rose syrup, water, and cornstarch in a small saucepan.
  • Put the pan on medium heat and bring to a full boil.
  • Let mixture become thick and start bubbling at the sides.
  • Remove from heat and add food coloring. Let it cool for 10 minutes on the counter.
  • Pour a small thin layer of the rose topping over the surface of the Mehalabeya pudding.
  • Refrigerate until set and cold; about 2 hours or overnight.
  • To make the pistachio topping, melt butter in a small pan. Add sugar and let it caramelize slightly. Mix in crushed pistachios till they are coated with the caramelized sugar mixture. Sprinkle this delicious topping just before serving the Mehalabeya cups.

Serve cold and enjoy!

With love,

Leena

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