Saturday, November 17

Milk Pudding

As enamored as I am of Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, I haven't cooked very much from it yet. This milk pudding, or muhallabeya, is one of the first. To be honest, the end result was a little eh... however, it is incredibly easy to make. If, as I was, you're craving something mild and pudding-like late at night, this dish can be produced quickly and easily. Also I suspect that it's really the toppings that make this dish worthwhile to the palate. It could be a lovely sweet, filling, exotic yet mild end to a meal that could be prepared long ahead of time. Here is the recipe, with some notes and changes.

3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons rice flour
5 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flower water (such as orange blossom or rose)
1/4 cup almonds chopped
1/4 cup pistachio nuts chopped
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon floral water
1/2 cup water

Roden offers the alternative of using 2 tablespoons of rice flour instead of the 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Not having any rice flour, I used 4 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of oat flour (for color more than anything). It seems that the cornstarch made some tiny little clumps. In the future I might actually grind rice in my coffee-grinder-in-which-no-coffee-is-allowed. I wonder how it would work with ground brown rice? It may be worth experimenting with other grains, as well.

Pour half the milk into a bowl and slowly add the cornstarch and flour, whisking to prevent clumps. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring the rest of the milk to a boil. Add the cornstarch flour and milk mixture, stirring constantly. Put the heat on low and keep stirring until you feel a slight resistance.

At that point, leave the milk on low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every so often. Be sure not to scrape up the layer that forms on the bottom of the saucepan; it often burns slightly, and if scraped up will add a burnt flavor to the pudding. A few minutes before time is up, add the sugar and floral water.

Let the pudding cool slightly, then pour into bowls. If serving appearance matters, be sure to pour into individual serving bowls, as it will solidify and look strange if served in scoops. Chill the pudding in the refrigerator.

When the pudding is sufficiently chilled, mix the honey, water, and floral water. Roden recommends boiling them to make a syrup, but to me that sounds like needless work and destruction of the enzymes in the honey. Decorate the surface of the pudding with a pattern of chopped nuts. (If you have no nuts handy, you could use ground spices instead for visual effect.) Pour the honey sauce on top of the pudding and nuts and allow it to seep in.

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