I recently made some Layali Libnaan, an incredibly tasty dessert with a semolina pudding base, topped with fresh cream, pistachios, and fruit, then drizzled with sugar syrup to taste. Because the pudding and cream are not sweetened, this recipe is great for people who are trying to control their sugar intake. I originally posted the recipe here. This is probably the easiest dessert I know how to make, and it looks so pretty :)
Couscous is one of those foods that is automatically associated with Morocco in most people’s minds. It is, in fact, consumed widely all across North Africa. Most interestingly, Egyptians eat couscous as a sweet item: for breakfast, a light supper, or dessert!
This recipe uses couscous, sugar, cinnamon, coconut, raisins, and nuts, to make an incredibly simple, yet very surprising dish.
A little info on couscous, for those of you who have never had it or don’t know much about it: Couscous is simply a pasta that is shaped into tiny little balls, but is much more versatile than the kind of pasta most Americans usually think of.
In Palestine, we have a variation of couscous that is called maftool. Maftool is also shaped into small balls, but they are slightly larger than those of North African couscous; they resemble little pearls. Ever heard of “Israeli Couscous?” Yeah. Maftool is about as Israeli as falafel or hummus, i.e it’s not.
For maftool, we make a tomato sauce with chickpeas and onions to serve with the pasta; it is one of my favorite traditional Palestinian dishes, and I will post a recipe for it sometime soon, inshallah!
But for now, it’s sugar time:
2 cups of couscous (usually comes in a box in the Middle Eastern section of your grocery store)
1/4 cup of melted butter
Toppings: whatever you like! Mix it up:
White sugar/brown sugar/powdered sugar/honey
Raisins (any kind you like)
Sweetened condensed milk
Put the dry couscous in a bowl.
Pour the melted butter over it, and mix in so that the butter coats all the couscous. Then, pour enough boiling water over the couscous to cover it by about half an inch.
Cover the bowl of buttery couscous and hot water and let it sit for about ten minutes. (I like to let it sit in the microwave because it’s insulated.) The couscous will absorb all the hot water and cook.
Fluff the couscous with a fork, then top with any combination of toppings you like!
Here is a picture of the bowl I made for myself this morning. My favorite toppings for Sweet Couscous are brown sugar, powdered sugar, almonds, coconut, and cinnamon.
It’s kind of like oatmeal, but definitely a lot more interesting. Try it!
It has been a long time since I last posted on this blog! I feel bad, but I had a lot going on in the past several weeks (months?) and was just not able to get around to updating. Also, some completely unpredicted events changed my plans that I had so carefully laid out for the next year or so, and I am now back in the US. SubhanAllah. But I do have a lot of recipes saved up and want to continue adding to this blog insha’Allah, and I think I am finally in a position to do that again :)
So to end my long break sweetly, I am going to share a recipe for a lovely dessert that is SO unbelievably easy to make and SO satisfying. To my Arab readers: you can make this with ingredients readily available in your kitchen. For those of you who do not have semolina, kaymak/clotted cream/gaimar, pistachios, and sugar syrup on hand: the ingredients are very easily acquired!
Two important notes: I tried making this a few days ago here in MN, and I was terribly wrong to make a few substitutions that made this dessert turn out just terribly. I was in a rush and thought that a few tweaks here and there would benefit me greatly in terms of money and time. Wrong. Do not substitute Cream of Wheat for the semolina. Do not buy a random UAE brand of gaimar from your local Middle Eastern grocer that is on sale. Stick to the well-known and trusted kinds. Do not use corn syrup instead of making a proper sugar syrup on the stove – I knew I shouldn’t have done this, but I was so short on time and decided to give it a try and hope for the best; yeah, no.
So here is my tried and true recipe for Layali Libnan! Literally “Nights of Lebanon,” “Lebanese Nights,” or however you want to put it, it consists of a creamy semolina-pudding base, covered with a smooth layer of thick, whole cream, topped with crushed pistachios. Since none of the ingredients used are sweet themselves, you sweeten this dessert by drizzling sugar syrup on top of each portion when you’re ready to serve it.
(The ingredients listed are very approximate – sorry).
1 liter of fresh milk
1.5-2 cups of coarse semolina
2 small cans of gaimar (use a good brand like Puk or Al-Marai) OR a container of clotted cream OR a small tub of kaymak – basically, any sort of spreadable full-fat cream (you can even boil whole liquid cream, let it cool, then scrape off the layer of fat that will form on the top and use that!)
a couple tablespoons of crushed pistachios for garnish
thinly-sliced strawberries (optional)
For the sugar syrup: 1 cup of water, 2 cups of sugar, half a lemon, rose water or orange blossom water (optional)
Start by heating the milk in a pot on low heat. Stir to make sure the bottom doesn’t burn.
When it almost reaches a boil, pour in the semolina, stirring constantly, letting it boil for a minute. You want the mixture to really thicken – thick enough that it’s hard to stir. If it isn’t thick enough, just keep adding more semolina until it thickens. This is always how I make it, hence my lack of an exact recipe :( – sorry !!
When it thickens up, take it off the stove. In a large glass baking dish or a deep serving tray, put a few drops of water to just barely coat the bottom. This is so that the pudding base doesn’t stick when you come to serve it. Next, pour the milk+semolina mixture into the dish. Let it cool a bit, then cover it and chill for a few hours.
While it’s chilling, make the sugar syrup:
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until it reaches a boil. When it starts boiling, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the syrup and keep stirring until it thickens. If you want, you can add a couple drops of rose water or orange blossom water to flavor it at this point. When it has thickened, take it off the fire and let it cool. It will finish thickening up as it cools! You need the sugar syrup to have cooled completely before you can use it on your dessert.
When the milk+semolina layer is finished chilling, open the cans of gaimar/kaymak/clotted cream and spread a nice, thick layer all over the top of the semolina base. You can make it as thick as you like; it’s all up to your own personal taste.
Finally, sprinkle the crushed pistachios all over the top to make it look pretty. You can even add thinly-sliced strawberries for extra color and texture if you want!
To serve, cut into large squares and drizzle with sugar syrup to taste :)
A quick, rich Egyptian dessert that Taita likes to make every once in a while when we want something sweet but are lazy:
Soak about 2 cups of rice in water for five minutes. Drain the water off.
Boil some water in a large pot. Put the soaked rice into the boiling water. Boil until the rice is just cooked, then add about 1 liter of milk to the pot. Add a cup of thick cream if you have some on hand, to make it even richer.
Add sugar and vanilla to taste.
Add a handful of coconut to the mixture.
You could add a handful of raisins too, if you like them (I don’t like raisins, personally, hence the green highlight color). Stir constantly until it thickens.
Pour the thickened mixture into a baking dish, and put it under your broiler until the top of the pudding turns a rich golden color.
Let it cool, then cut it and serve! It can be eaten at room temperature, or chilled.
Couldn’t be simpler :)
In Jordan, [X] and milk is a popular refreshment that most Americans would call milkshakes, but is made without ice cream. Some of the common ones are bananas and milk, strawberries and milk, and one of my favorites: guavas and milk. I never thought that guava and dairy could go together since I always thought of guava as a fruit with some sourness to it. But then my Aunt Hanan made us “guavas&milk” one day and it was amazing! It’s super simple, as you probably can guess, but tastes really good :)
Ingredients (no quantities here!)
Soft, sweet guavas
Whole fresh milk
Tiny bit of vanilla
Sugar to taste
(Honey to decorate your glasses with, if you want)
Wash and halve the guavas.
Scoop out the seeds, because they aren’t fun to have in your drink, and because they aren’t good for your blender blades. Quarter and put in the blender.
Add milk, vanilla, and sugar. Blend till smooth. Add water if too thick.
Add some honey if you want – for extra flavor. (If I had the financial ability to sweeten this with a whole jar of honey instead of sugar each time I made it, I definitely would. Bass 7asab it-tasaheel ya3ni :P)
Serve! I apologize for the lack of a nice picture of the final product; I didn’t have time to spend carefully taking a good photo because everyone was waiting for their guavas&milk.