Layali Lubnan | Lebanese Nights | Semolina Pudding

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December! We have come to the end of another year and the start of a new year for MFB Challenge! This month's theme was to make any Arabic Sweets! If I had an oven, I would have tried Baklava hands-down. My next choice would have been Kunafa, my most favourite! But for now, I settled to remake Layali Lubnan for the blog.

Layali Lubnan | Lebanese Nights | Semolina Pudding

Layali Lubnan or Lebanese Nights is a popular semolina based pudding of the Middle East and is made in a few different ways. I am not sure if it has been evident with my food trials, so let me state the fact - I love Lebanese cuisine. Lebanese Nights is an amazingly aromatic dessert that is simple and yet delectable and has a rich taste coming from subtle hints of Mastic or Arabic Gum, orange blossom water and rose water. In some regions, it also goes by the name, Madlouah.

The pudding is layered with semolina on the bottom, topped with cream and then decorated with some pistachios and drizzled with atter, the middle eastern's aromatic sugar syrup. When I first came across this sweet dish, I did not have mastic and nor did I know what was the "cream" that they used. Then it slipped off the must-try list only to surface again during Ramadan!



There is no reason why I should not make this again for the blog and the challenge because you know - I love semolina, I have enough mastic now and I also figured what is the "cream" they use to top the pudding.

The variations that I have come across on the web range from adding an egg to the pudding base, using whipped cream to top the pudding, using Ashta or Kashta (clotted cream) to top the pudding or mixing the Ashta with table cream to top the pudding. But the three flavours of mastic, orange blossom and rose water seemed to be highly recommended.

After my first attempt that I shared on IG, I made a big batch for a dinner party at Z's home. I mixed the syrup with cream to top the pudding so that I can avoid carrying additional container. I also added the ground pistachio much earlier which got wet in the cream and it looked gross. Though she said it tasted yum, I was heartbroken it didn't look anywhere near to how I wanted. Lessons learnt. Do not try shortcuts on an already simple recipe :-D

Layali Lubnan | Lebanese Nights | Semolina Pudding

No one seems to know why this dessert is called the Lebanese Nights but the most accepted reason is that this dessert celebrates the colours of Lebanese flag. So the white pudding, green pistachios and for the red, traditionally they use the orange blossom petal jam or rose petal jam (Now, this will be my next hunt) I didn't have to think much for a sub when we have our rubies in plenty! :-P Pomegranate!

This time I chose to make them in individual servings to curb our intake. As it stays good in the fridge, I can have these over the course of at least two to three days. We shared one bowl of Layali Lubnan for a late night dessert. It was silky smooth and creamy soft. The next day, I couldn't resist the temptation and reached for the small bowl for my lunch. The third bowl? Well, we were having some silly cold shoulders ramp walk and so I just gulped down without offering him. Not guilty but felt sorry for him. ;-P

Layali Lubnan | Lebanese Nights | Semolina Pudding

This version I am sharing today is eggless and I have used the Cream that we get in small tins here. I wanted to make my own Ashta but did not have enough milk at that time. InshaAllah, will try and update this post.

Layali Lubnan making demands a few minutes of undivided attention, both while making the pudding base and the sugar syrup. A little distraction and you have high chances to ruin the dish. But this is the easiest make-ahead dessert!

Layali Lubnan | Lebanese Nights | Semolina Pudding

Adapted from reading multiple sources and  Good Cooks

Layali Lubnan | Lebanese Nights | Semolina Pudding

INGREDIENTS

For the pudding base:

1 and 1/2 cup milk 
1/4 cup fine semolina 
2 tablespoon sugar 
1 to 2 mastic tear, crushed (optional)
2 teaspoon orange blossom water 
1 teaspoon rose water

For the aromatic syrup or atter

1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 cup water
1 crushed cardamom 
a squeeze of lemon juice 
1 teaspoon of rose water or orange blossom water

For the topping:
1/2 can of cream (Nestle, puck. luna etc)*
Ashta (optional)**

For garnish:
Handful silvered pistachios (you can use crushed or ground pistachios too)
Orange blossom petal jam or rose petal jam or use some Pomegranate arils for the colour pop!

METHOD

Prepare the Pudding base 
  1. Keep the pudding tray or the individual bowls ready to be used on the counter 
  2. Crush the mastic tear with the back of a spoon
  3. Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed deep saucepan over a medium heat until it is just warm to touch. 
  4. Slowly stir in the rest of the pudding base ingredients while continuing to stir until the mixture reaches the boiling point. 
  5. Continue to stir on low to medium flame and add more rose water or orange blossom water if required. 
  6. Ensure no lumps are formed and so keep stirring until the mixture thickens slightly. It will thicken as it gets cold, so don't cook for too long. Just thick enough that it coats the back of the spoon. 
  7. Pour the pudding base mixture into the tray or divide equally into each of the bowls 
  8. Let it cool on the counter and then move them into the fridge. 

Prepare the aromatic syrup
  1. Add the sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring it to boil on high heat and let it boil until all the sugar is dissolved. 
  2. Reduce the heat to low, add the lemon juice, cardamom and rose or orange blossom water 
  3. Let it boil for another 5 to 7 minutes and then switch off 
  4. Transfer the syrup to the serving bowl and let it cool to room temperature 
  5. Serve separately along with the pudding
Prepare or Add the toppings

* I have seen a lot of recipes that use whipped cream so if you don't like or can't source table cream then used whipped cream 
  1. Check if the pudding is totally cooled and spread some cream evenly. 
  2. Cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours  
Garnish

Add this close to serving time. 
  1. Place the silvered or crushed or ground pistachios in a creative way 
  2. Place some pomegranate arils or if you are lucky to have some petal jams, then that goes perfectly with this pudding. 
  3. Serve along with the syrup bowl 
  4. Pour as much as syrup you want over the pudding
  5. Scoop the melt-in-mouth Lebanese nights :-)
Layali Lubnan | Lebanese Nights | Semolina Pudding

Personally, I would have preferred to have it all sweet instead of me having to add the syrup. But the pouring of syrup itself gives a very middle east vibe! :-) If you want to know how it feels to eat this, Layali Lubnan leaves a velvety feel with the richness of the clotted cream or table cream that is creamy and silky, complimenting the semolina pudding. The subtle hints of mastic gum, orange blossom water and rose water capture the Middle Eastern desserts aroma. Let's not forget the nuttiness of pistachios and the sweetness of the aromatic syrup, all in one mouthwatering bite. 

Lebanese Nights is definitely a perfect dessert to serve at dinner parties!  

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