Mahalabia, also known as Mahalabi, is a Middle Eastern dessert of boiled milk, slightly sweetened and flavoured with rose or orange water. Very much like Blanc Mange, it is extremely easy to make, takes only a few minutes, then placed in the fridge to cool.
And 3 years after first posting this recipe, I got around to taking new pictures – with my DSLR no less! I love the new pictures but the old one above is still a personal favourite!
Mahalabia is found in many Middle Eastern countries, with each one claiming ownership (of course); but whatever its origin, suffice it to say, if you like milky puddings, you’re going to love this one!
Mahalabia, as mentioned, is essentially a milk dessert, however, you can “play around” with the dairy that you use in the recipe. For example, some people like to add a little cream to the milk for a richer taste but if you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of evaporated milk, especially in my desserts.
Which means that my Mahalabia recipe gets the evaporated milk treatment too! I use a mixture of fresh whole milk and evaporated milk, for an indulgent, but surprisingly, still light dessert. I’ve made this with semi skimmed milk and semi skimmed evaporated milk with very good results too, if you don’t fancy all that fat!
Mahalabia can also be made a day ahead, in fact, overnight chilling (covered) gives the best result.
How to serve Mahalabia
Crushed pistachios and almonds are used as a light topping, as you can see from the pictures and provide a wonderful contrast in texture and temperature. Don’t fancy nuts? Leave them out.
Crushed rose petals are another common topping but to me, these don’t really do anything in terms of flavour, they just provide a visual enhancement.
Crushed hibiscus petals are tart and while not traditional, make a great flavour contrast.
Remember I mentioned right at the start that we flavour it with either orange flower water or rose water? I always lean towards rose and if you have access to rose syrup, that makes a wonderful topping too, slightly diluted and drizzled over. If you can’t get rose syrup, think fresh berries, butterscotch, caramel (salted caramel would be good). Not traditional but always good!
Can’t get rose water or orange flower water? Don’t flavour it or go with half a tsp of vanilla paste/extract in this recipe.
I know many of you are visiting this page, especially during Ramadan every year. Do let me know what you think of the recipe, if you made any changes, if you have any questions or suggestions or if you just want to say hi! I would love to hear from you.
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- 200 ml (4/5 cup) fresh whole milk
- 200 ml (4/5 cup) evaporated milk
- 4 Tbsp white sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch), mixed into a paste with 1-2 tbsp milk
- 1 Tbsp rose water or orange water
- finely crushed seeds of 2 cardamoms
- some crushed pistachios or almonds
- 2 tsp of rose syrup diluted in 1 Tbsp water (optional topping)
- Combine both types of milk and the sugar in a heavy based saucepan or milk pan and stir to mix.
- Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring once or twice to help the sugar dissolve. Watch it carefully as boiling milk will suddenly rise up!
- Once it's just coming to boil, lower the heat completely and add the cornflour paste, stirring immediately. Now you need to be careful here as the milk can catch if your heat is not low enough, or if the pan doesn't have a thick enough base. You don't want burnt milk or bits in your mahalabia!
- Keep stirring for 2 minutes until it thickens to the consistency of very thick custard. Shouldn't take more than 2 minutes.
- Take it off the heat, add the rose/orange water (whatever you're using) and crushed cardamom and stir.
- Pour into serving dishes/cups and place in the fridge to cool for at least 3 hours. It will thicken when cold. If you are going to chill it overnight, cover the cups/dishes with cling film or saucers to prevent the Mahalabia from absorbing any smells but also to stop the surface from becoming dry.
- To serve, drizzle the rose syrup over it (if using) and sprinkle with nuts.
Total time does not include chilling time.