A regal pudding fit for caliph, nobles and moms

By Habeeb Salloum

From the regal residences of the Umayyads in the 7th century this light slightly sweet milk pudding has been around and improved over the centuries. 

A popular dessert throughout the Arab Middle East, its history has always been associated with nobility.  One theory attributes its name to the 7th century Umayyad General al-Muhallab because he enjoyed it so much or back to the tribe of al-Muhallab who may have been the first to create it.

No matter who claims fame to its origin, Muhalabiya is one of those oddities in food history that was identified with the cuisine of the upper classes yet made with the simplest and least expensive ingredients to create a rich tasting pudding. Although made only with milk, sugar, and cornstarch, it came to be even more luxurious as it was enhanced with ingredients and garnishes such as pistachios and pine nuts. 

Mothers deserve to be pampered and what better way to do this than by offering her a regal pudding.

This is my version of this famous dessert.

Muhalabiya

Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 cups milk, divided
5 tablespoons corn starch
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons ground pistachios

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together 3 cups of the milk with the sugar until it just begins to boil, stirring constantly.  When the milk-sugar mixture is almost ready, whisk together in a bowl the remaining milk and the cornstarch until smooth. Stir the milk-corn starch mixture into the saucepan, reduce heat to medium and stir constantly for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the pistachios and cook for a further 2 minutes. Spoon immediately into serving bowls.

Garnish with the pistachios. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours then serve.