A classic milk pudding that is a stalwart of Lebanese restaurants everywhere. Because it’s so easy to make, muhallabeya is also
a very popular home dessert. At its simplest, it’s served very cold and drizzled with a rose-flavoured syrup, which adds the requisite sweet counterpoint to the pudding’s own delicate creaminess. Our favourite twist is to enrich the pudding mix with a little labne, which adds a welcome tang.Here, we liven things up even more by serving it with an intense nectarine caramel.
Mastic grains come from the resinous gum of the mastic tree. Traditionally used in milk puddings to add a subtle pine flavour, they are available online and from Middle Eastern grocers.
4 small mastic grains
120 g (4½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
40 g (1½ oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
1 litre (34 fl oz) full-cream
long strip of peel from ½ lemon
long strip of peel from ½ orange
30 ml (1 fl oz) orange blossom water
200 g (7 oz) labne
edible flowers, to garnish (optional)
your favourite wafer biscuit, to serve
4 nectarines, skin on
100 g (3½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
80 ml (2½ fl oz) water
juice of 1 orange
To make the nectarine caramel, first blanch the nectarines in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Refresh in cold water and, when cool
enough to handle, use a very sharp knife to peel away the skins. Cut them in half, remove the pits and chop the flesh roughly.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring from time to time, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the liquid is clear, bring
to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer briskly for about 8 minutes to make a deep chestnut caramel. Take the pan off the heat and add the
chopped nectarines to the caramel, taking care in case it sputters, then return to the heat and bring to a simmer. Add the orange juice and bring
just to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little before transferring to a food processor and whizzing to a purée. If you want
a very smooth finish, push the mix through a sieve. Chill until required.
Grind the mastic with ½ teaspoon of the sugar in a mortar, then mix with the cornflour and remaining sugar in a small bowl. Stir in a few tablespoons of the milk to make a paste.
Put the rest of the milk in a large heavy-based saucepan set over a low heat. Whisk in the mastic paste until smooth, then add the citrus peels
and bring to the boil, whisking all the time. As it comes to the boil, the mixture will thicken. Lower the heat and simmer for 4–5 minutes to cook out the cornflour, still whisking continuously to make sure it doesn’t catch and burn.
Remove the pan from the heat, then strain the mixture into a bowl and cool in a sink of iced water, whisking so that it becomes light and fluffy.
Once it has cooled to blood temperature, stir in the orange blossom water, then fold in the labne.
Spoon the muhallabeya into eight pretty serving glasses. Carefully spoon on a layer of chilled nectarine caramel, then refrigerate until chilled.
Garnish with edible flowers, if you like, and serve with a delicate wafer biscuit.