Muhallibieh is the traditional, rose-water scented milk-pudding originally from Turkey and popular in countries of the Middle East. It is known as Malabi in Israel, and this name has largely stuck. Creamy, smooth and dainty, this easy dessert can be whipped up in no time and topped with any number of embellishments; chopped nuts like almonds or pistachios, or a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds or drizzle of pomegranate molasses are all good toppings, as is a little swirl of date syrup. The delicate rose-perfumed aroma of malabi in combination with a little more robust fruit flavor and nut-crunch make it an irresistible force and a dessert that people will always make room for.
True custards made with milk and thickened with egg are always near the top of the dessert list, and are a must have ingredient for certain tarts and trifles, but when you don’t have the time to be making a real crème moulée, a reasonable and easy knock-off is a starch-thickened pudding like blancmange, or a custard-like dessert like the one made from Bird’s Custard Powder.
In both those cases, cornstarch acts as the thickening agent, and cornstarch is the same ingredient used to thicken the Middle East version of blancmange, malabi. But you could also use an equal amount of rice flour, or arrowroot powder.
And for that matter, you could experiment a little more and substitute coconut milk or a nut-beverage for the milk and you would have a delicious, creamy dessert totally suitable for a vegan diet.
Today we are making a traditional malabi, an easy recipe with just a few ingredients that will use up a little of the rose water we have on hand from the Sfouf we made the other day. We also have a fresh pomegranate, assorted nuts and some date honey, so we’ll be able to garnish each malabi slightly differently. By the way, if you don’t have date syrup in your cupboard you can always make your own; just simmer 1 quantity of dates in 1.5 quantity of water for about 40 minutes. Strain the dates (you can use them later in muffins) and return the liquid to simmer on low until it reduces to the desired thickness. Remember, as with most fruit reductions/syrups, it will become twice as thick once it cools.
2 cups milk
5 tablespoons corn starch
3 teaspoons rose-water
½ cup table cream
¼ cup sugar
For garnish: pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios, chopped almonds, date syrup, fresh sprigs of mint.
Mix, until smooth ¼ cup of the cold milk with the cornstarch and rose water. Set aside. In a saucepan heat the remaining milk and cream with the sugar, stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the cold milk/rosewater cornstarch mixture. Stir until mixture becomes thick; this happens almost immediately. Pour into individual serving vessels and cool until room temperature, then cool in fridge until totally set. Remove from fridge and garnish to your liking just before serving. This Malabi is firm, not runny, and can be inverted onto a plate as well.