Desserts are an indispensable part of the rich and diverse Middle Eastern cuisine. There is always at least one kind of dessert ready to be enjoyed after a meal, with a morning coffee, or at teatime with a mint tea.
It is a deep-rooted tradition in the Middle East to serve something sweet to guests, much in the same way as in Cyprus we are hospitably served Glyko or spoon sweets, when visiting and after meals. Their desserts or sweet treats are seen as symbols of friendship, happiness, joy and generosity, and are an essential part of all special occasions, such as weddings, holidays and festivals. Some of these popular Middle Eastern sweets/ desserts are well known to us in the Mediterranean region too such as
Baklava, Halva, Honey Cake, Revini, Muhallabia, Riz bi Haleeb – this is a refreshing chilled rice pudding
Whilst rice pudding as a dessert is found in almost every food culture in the world. In its Middle Eastern variations, the aroma of the rice pudding will be enriched with rose water or orange blossom water. These are the most prominent aromatics of the Middle East.
Our first recipe is the Muhallabia, a combination of both rose and orange flavours and wonderfully refreshing on a hot summer’s day!
- 500 ml skimmed or low-fat milk
- 4 – 4 ½ tbsp corn flour (corn starch) – if you add any more it will not have the light consistency
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp ‘pouring’ cream
- ¾ tsp rose water
- ¼ tsp orange blossom water
- ½ tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp dried rose petals
- ¼ cup pistachio roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp rose syrup (optional)
- Measure 500 ml milk in a saucepan
- From this remove 4 Tbsp and add to a bowl
- Add cornflour to the milk in the bowl, along with sugar
- Stir well till it is lump-free
- Now heat the milk in the saucepan till JUST BEFORE boiling
- Remove from heat and add to the cornflour-milk mix.
- Stir / Whisk well and return to the saucepan and heat again, stirring till the milk thickens. (Using a non-stick saucepan is recommended)
- Remove from heat. Stir in the cream, rose water and orange blossom water
- Pour into one large serving dish or individual serving bowls. Cover with saran wrap/cling film and place in the fridge to chill for about 6 hours. It should no longer jiggle when the bowl is moved
To Garnish: Heat a small pan with a light brushing of oil. Add the chopped pistachios and roast till you get the nutty fragrance. Immediately remove from heat and add the dried rose petals. Stir through.
To Serve: Remove the chilled dessert from the fridge just before serving. Add a little rose syrup over the centre of the pudding and top with the pistachio-rose mixture. The dried rose petals are mainly for garnish purposes and they do lend a subtle fragrance.
Our next recipe is a twist on an original Middle Eastern orange cake. Instead of adding the orange flavour with orange blossom water and orange zest, in our recipe we simply boil the oranges whole for the flavour and moisture.
Whole Orange Cake – Flourless
This is a wonderful moist cake that’s bursting with orange flavour in a way that you can only achieve using whole oranges and is our absolute favourite at The Spice House. It’s a terrific and easy cake that’s perfect to take to any gatherings since it’s also gluten-free and everyone can eat it. The nutty almond flavour is wonderful and keeps it ultra-moist.
- 2 medium oranges, fresh whole with rind on
- 1 ¼ tsp baking powder (gluten free preferred)
- 6 large eggs, at room temp (approx. 50-60g each)
- 1 ¼ cups white sugar (unrefined optional)
- 2 ¾ cups almond meal / ground almonds (it’s good to grind your own almonds with the skin on)
- Boil Oranges
- Place oranges in a pan and cover with cold water
- Boil 40 minutes keeping an eye on the water level
- Rinse oranges then cool slightly so you can handle them. Slice into 1 cm / ¼ inch slices the dice, removing any seeds. Cool completely.
- Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F (140°C fan). Grease and line a 23cm/9″ cake pan with baking/parchment paper.
- Blitz oranges: Place chopped oranges in a food processor. Blitz on high for 4 x 10 second bursts, scraping down the sides in between, until it’s pureed into a marmalade consistency with only a few visible bits of rind remaining. It does not need to be completely smooth.
- Blitz in remaining ingredients: Add almond meal, eggs, baking powder and sugar. Blitz for 5 – 10 seconds on high until combined.
- Bake for 60 minutes: Pour into prepared cake pans. Bake for 60 minutes until the surface is golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool: Cool fully in cake pan. Unless using a loose base pan, cover the surface with baking paper to help you turn it out (cake is sticky so may stick to your hand and tear the surface otherwise.)
Serve: Decorate as desired – I used slices of fresh oranges, rind strips and sprigs of flowers. A dusting of icing sugar / powdered unrefined sugar is also lovely. Cut, then serve!
Enjoy with a dollop of yoghurt or on its own with a mint tea!
For more recipes or info visit www.spiceandeasycyprus.com or call us on +357 99104622