Muhallebi (Arabic: مهلبية, French: mouhallabié) is a milk pudding commonly made with rice, sugar, milk and either rice flour, starch or semolina,popular as a dessert in the Middle East. While the dessert is called Muhallebi in Greece, Turkey and Iraq, the Egyptian variant is called mahalabia, the levantine variant is called mahalabiyeh.
History of Muhallebi
According to legends, Mahlebi (Arabic: Mehlbiyya) was introduced to Arab cuisine in the late seventh century by an Iranian cook of the Sassanid dynasty (224-651).
For the first time, he named Mahlabiya for an Arab general named Mahlab bin Abi Safra, whom he loved very much. The first recipes, dating back to the 10th century, included three versions:
1- Condensed milk with ground rice
2- Milk with rice grains and chicken
3- Egg custard without rice.
The oldest recipe of Mehlabiya is attributed to Ibn Siyar al-Waraq al-Baghdadi. Two 13th-century Arab cookbooks, one from al-Baghdadi and the other from Andalusia, have variations of a spiced pudding made with mutton instead of chicken. The description of the Iranian origin of pudding comes from the book of Andalusian cooking.
In the Middle Ages, Mehlabiya and its European counterpart, Blancmange, were made with shredded chicken. There are records from the Ottoman Empire for two versions of mahlabiya: a version with minced chicken (tavuk göğsü) served during the reign of Muhammad the Conqueror, and a later recipe from 1530 for a meatless version flavored with rose water.
One of the 19th century English cookbooks that provides a recipe for mahalabi calls it “Ramadan cakes”. The recipe says to cook milk with rice flour and sugar until the mixture reduces. We flavour the pudding with rose or jasmine extract and allow it to cool before sprinkling with powdered sugar.
In recent Persian recipe adding Saffron for colouring the desert.
How to make Muhallebi
1 litre (4 cups) Full fat milk
80 g (⅓ cup) sugar
70 g corn starch
2 tsp rosewater
40 g pistachios (unsalted) finely chopped.
1 small rose blossom(optional) for garnish