One of the most beautiful puddings in the world. Small squares of cornflour pudding float in a heavenly, scented syrup surrounded by raisins, almonds, pistachio nuts and rose petals. This is an Arab recipe which is popular throughout the Mediterranean lands, especially in Syria and Lebanon where one sees huge gilt bowls of haytaliah during the Muslim festivities. To prepare this sweet you must first make the cornflour pudding. This is called Balouza and is equally famed amongst Arabs who often eat it on its own, chilled and garnished with chopped pistachios.
- Yield: 10 Servings
- 4 oz (110 g) cornflour
- 6 oz (175 g) sugar
- 4 fl oz (120 ml) orange blossom water or rosewater
- 2 oz (50 g) chopped pistachios or blanched almonds
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 oz (110 g) sugar
- 6 tablespoons rosewater or more according to taste
- 4 oz (110 g) raisins
- 2 tablespoons halved pistachio nuts
- 1 small pomegranate seeds
- a few rose petals, washed and dried carefully
- ice cubes
- ice cream of choice (optional)
- Place the cornflour in a large saucepan and add about 300 ml (½ pint) water, stirring constantly until you have a smooth paste. Stir in 1.5 litres (2½ pints) water and the sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, and then lower the heat to a minimum and simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir frequently to prevent sticking but do not scrape the bottom – the slight scorching of the bottom of the pan gives the pudding its unique flavour. Stir in the orange blossom water and cook for a further minute. Add the chopped nuts and stir thoroughly. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 2 minutes. If you are going to serve it by itself then pour into individual bowls and chill. Before serving sprinkle with a little cinnamon and, if liked, a few chopped pistachio nuts.
- If making haytaliah pour the balouza into a square or rectangular baking tin moistened with cold water and even it out with the back of a spoon. The balouza should not be more than 2.5 cm (1 in) thick. Pour a little cold water over the top to give the pudding its crinkled appearance. Cool for 15 minutes and then refrigerate for several hours. Remove from the fridge and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) squares.
- Now prepare the syrup by mixing 1.2 litres (2 pints) water and the sugar in a large saucepan over a low heat stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes and then set aside to cool. Add the rosewater, raisins, pistachio nuts and pomegranate seeds and stir well. Pour into a decorative serving bowl, add a few rose petals and drop in the squares of balouza and some ice cubes.