One thing that is recognisably special about Egypt is the variety of seasons there are all year long. And the word ‘seasons’ in this context does not refer to weather but to the incredibly large number of occasions that Egyptians annually celebrate.
Every season is also associated with special dishes, like the fantastic Egyptian Ramadan puddings we are demonstrating today. Some of these dishes are quite exclusive to the very day of celebration such as the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. On this day, certain types of sweets and caramelised nuts are specially made, sold, bought, gifted, and eaten. Yet, they cannot be found during the rest of the year.
On the other hand, other dishes can be associated with certain occasions but are still cooked and served all year long. Take for instance the holy month of Ramadan. People, and by this I mean women as in moms and wives especially, race to make the most delicious dishes, both savoury and sweet, to compensate for a long day of fasting. Almost all of these dishes are available any time of the year.
Today, we bring you three oriental Egyptian Ramadan puddings that are as incredibly easy to make as they are captivatingly delightful.
So let’s hop into the recipes
Or vanilla milk pudding.
The first recipe we have is the famous easy, delicious vanilla milk pudding or Mahalabia. It is frequently served in Ramadan so you might not find it very often in regular patisseries at other times of the year but it is can be served in many restaurants.
Thankfully, it takes a short time to make. Technically, the preparation time for Mahalabia is even less than 10 minutes. But since it is served cold—which makes it perfect for the long, hot summer season—it needs to chill for around an hour in the fridge.
To make Mahalabia, you only need four main ingredients. That said, many recipes suggest adding some more ingredients to make it even richer and tastier. Ours is one of such recipes.
2 cups of whole milk
4 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of starch
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of whipped cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Shredded coconut and raisins
Unsalted crushed peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or pistachio
Start by adding the milk to a cooking pot then add the flour, starch, and sugar. Whisk them well until all the dry ingredients are totally dissolved in the milk; there are no pumpings.
On medium heat, add the pot and continue to whisk the milk mixture. After a while, it will start to thicken. When the composition is quite thick, add the butter and whisk the pudding until it is completely dissolved and well blended.
Now it is time to add the vanilla and whipped cream. Though it is not included in the original recipe, it does make the pudding richer in flavour. Whisk it well with the pudding then take it off the heat.
The next step is also not included in the recipe but is highly recommended. With an electric hand mixer, give the pudding a final blend for about a minute. This step helps make the pudding so creamy.
Pour the pudding into small or medium-sized pudding basins. Use a mix of shredded coconuts and raisins or any unsalted crushed nuts as toppings.
Leave the pudding basins for around 20 minutes then put them in the fridge to chill for around an hour before serving.
2. Rice Pudding
Rice is one common ingredient in most Egyptian savoury dishes. It is cooked in a variety of ways, eaten as a main course with chicken and seafood or stuffed in Mahshi and Mumbar—these are the Arabic words for stuffed vegetables and stuffed osban lamb, respectively.
Rice is also used in desserts. It makes one of the tastiest and always available ones: Orz b-Laban or Rice Pudding. Rice pudding is available all the time and more common than Mahalabia for it is usually served after Koshary; Egypt’s number one local dish. The recipe cannot be easier too.
1/2 cup of rice
2 cups of water
1/2 of whipped cream
5 1/2 cups of milk
4 tablespoons of starch
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Raisins and shredded coconuts
Unsalted crushed pistachio
A pinch of salt
First, add the starch to half a cup of milk and whisk it well until it is completely dissolved. Make sure there are no pumpings. Leave the mixture aside for now.
Add the rice and water to a cooking pot on high heat. Mix them with a spatula until the rice is cooked but still firm; al dente.
Turn off the heat and add the milk, whipped cream, sugar, vanilla, and dissolved starch mixture to the rice. Mix them all well and put the pot back on high heat. You must whisk the rice/milk mixture frequently to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. Keep doing this for five minutes.
Now lower the heat and leave the pudding to simmer for another 10 minutes. Whisk frequently until the pudding starts to get thicker and the rice seems to increase. Once the rice is cooked and the pudding is thick and creamy, turn off the heat.
Pour the rice pudding into pudding basins and leave them for around 20 minutes. Then cover the basins and move them to the fridge to chill for at least an hour. After you take them out, add whatever topping is available. You can serve the rice pudding plain.
3. Qamar al-Din Pudding
This is another tasty pudding that is so easy to make though its base is quite different. Qamar al-Din pudding is made of a special apricot sweet leather that is very popular during Ramadan. It is believed to have originated in Syria but it is used in many Arab countries as well.
Qamar al-din is exclusively consumed during Ramadan for it is quite unavailable at other times of the year. Arabs mainly use it to make Qamar al-Din beverages and puddings. The latter is the easiest and the quickest pudding ever.
What is special about this pudding is the sour taste of apricot. That is why the recipe does not include any flavouring of vanilla or rose water.
1 sheet of apricot paste (around 500 g)
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of sugar
5 tablespoons of starch
Shredded coconut and raisins
Note: Make sure you choose a fine brand of Qamar al-Din. It has to be soft and a little mushy. It is also recommended you soak it in water overnight.
Cut the sheet of Qamar al-Din into small pieces and soak them in four cups of water for at least an hour before using. Then on high heat, whisk the apricot/water mixture until it is completely dissolved.
At this stage, the liquid mixture should be soft. If there are still some pieces of Qamar al-Din that are too stubborn to blend, you can use a blender to get the preferred consistency.
In a small bowl, whisk the starch in a cup of water until there are no pumpings. Add the starch and sugar to the Qamar al-Din juice and whisk them all on high heat for around five minutes.
When the mixture thickens and turns into a pudding, turn the heat off. Pour the pudding into pudding basins and leave them aside for 15-30 minutes before you move them to the fridge to chill for another hour.
When you take them out, add toppings of shredded coconut and raisins before serving.
Egyptian pudding desserts not only tantalize the taste buds but also serve as a reflection of the country’s vibrant history and diverse influences. Whether enjoyed during festive celebrations, family gatherings, or everyday indulgences, these sweet delights bring people together, fostering a sense of shared heritage and joy.