Lavender semolina pudding, Layali Lobnan – nights of Lebanon

6 years of Eat Yourself Greek – who would have thought?

Once a year I think it’s a good time to have a round up and see what you have been up to. I’m naughty, I skipped one, but hey, there is no one judging and it’s a really good opportunity for celebration, I feel I need it more than ever: Layali Lubnan, lebanese nights for dessert! 

Head straight to the recipe.

Oh hey, do you still read blogs? Well, so am I, you are in good company. I don’t think I will ever get out of the habit. It used to be Sunday papers with coffee but as you can guess I swapped this routine with favourite blogs. The crazy world of social media hasn’t got me completely hooked yet, I have just about escaped it. Truth is, I have been busy.

These past two years have found me juggling many different things, not all of them exciting. I moved back to London from Athens last November, I got myself a 9 to 5 job and then another and I moved home just before lockdown seized us all up and left us wondering what the heck is going on with the world?

Before this point, I have possibly been a bit more quiet on the blog than I used to.  It’s not out of laziness I assure you. You can find some recipes to feed conversation at Odysea, try the muhammara or the date molasses pumpkin with couscous!

Last year also marked the start of my collaboration with Greek Biostore. American friends rejoice! You can get the best of organic Greek products right at your door step. So yes, more delicious recipes there. I have a very soft spot for the mushroom youvetsi. If you love Greek honey and you would like to learn more about the different honey varieties, there are some excellent suggestions for cheese and honey pairings here and here. Tasting for yourselves is highly recommended, don’t just read 😉 

During lockdown, it was all about comfort food and your recipes and experiences from all over the world! I can’t thank you enough for keeping me company during these crazy times. I know many of you were looking forward to every new post.  Lockdown is over, without being exactly over and I still spend an unhealthy amount of time at home. If you are in search of comfort food, check here, you can revisit all the recipes.   

Layali Lobnan found me quarantining with 2 huge packs of semolina and an urge to try something other than galaktoboureko or bougatsa or halva. It’s a levantine classic, very easy to make and quick to consume. Oh, and it is delicious! 

I made it for my first get together with friends after lockdown. A 3 months delayed house-warming party and quick hugs with masks on because, seriously, social distancing with people you love is a cruel thing. Even more so, if you are a loud Greek and hugs are the extension of your arms. May I say, the critics gave it the shield of approval?

After the sad events on Lebanon last week, I felt like it’s a good time to share this levantine classic (with a twist) and lift the spirits. Layali Lubnan means nights of Lebanon, it also goes by the name madlouqa and it is popular in many Arab cuisines. It’s not a fussy dessert but by no means simplistic, its different layers hide different textures and the gentle aromas bring together tastes truly magical. 

This dessert has a humble semolina base, lush layers of cream on top, hidden aromas in its body, a light syrup for extra sweetness and crunchy pistachios to top that captivate both your gaze and senses. As I was gently smoothing out the waves of lush white cream on top, it served as a little reminder: sweet things will come again, our ups and downs come in waves just like the cream. No matter the hardship, us humans have this extraordinary strength to ride any wave, overcome just about everything and start afresh. It is no small thing to be able to reboot and show resilience at the worst of times. It might actually deserve more than just one slice of Layali Lobnan. 

Traditionally Layali Lobnan has two layers: the base is a cold semolina pudding; semolina is cooked in milk and 3 aromas bind it together: orange blossom, rose water and mastic. The second layer is fresh cream, the creme de la creme to be precise, it goes by the name ashta in the Arab world. The pudding is topped with pistachios, whole or crushed is up to you and it is served with a drizzle of light and equally fragrant syrup to match its base.

Traditionally the aromas are orange blossom and rose water and dried rose petals often decorate its top along with pistachios. I went for my wonderful organic lavender floral water and it’s a dream. Ashta, the arab style clotted cream, is completely new to me, so you will excuse this tiny cheat, I went for whipping cream. 

Layali Lobnan, nights of Lebanon

Recipe adapted by But First Chai


Layali lobnan, nights of Lebanon


Don’t forget or replace the pistachios

Ingredients

  • 150 gr semolina
  • 1.1 lt milk
  • 100 gr sugar
  • 2 tbsp lavender water
  • 1 or 2 mastic tear, crushed (optional)
    Whipping Cream topping
  • 1 tspn levander water or vanilla extract
  • 400 ml whipping cream
  • 80 gr icing sugar
    Syrup
  • 250 gr sugar
  • 200 gr water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Lemon peel
    Topping
    150 gr pistachios, unsalted, coarsely chopped or finely chopped or not chopped at all
    dried lavender, just a bit

Directions

  1. Bring the milk and semolina to the boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to low until the mixture thickens, approx 10-13 minutes. Towards the end add the lavender water, give it a stir to mix and remove from heat. Place in a pyrex tray or your baking tin, anything with a relatively deep wall will work fine. Let it cool down at room temperature and then place in the fridge for 45 minutes or even overnight.
  2. For the whipping cream, use really chilled. You can quickly pop it in the freezer whilst making the semolina pudding. Place in a bowl, whip gradually adding in the sugar. Once ready, cover it and place in the fridge until the base is ready to use.
  3. Once the semolina pudding is cool and firm, layer the cream on top, spreading generously.
  4. To decorate, use the pistachios whole, roughly or finely chopped and add a few dried lavender flowers if you have at hand.
  5. For the syrup, bring water and sugar to the boil, leave undisturbed. After 7 minutes add the lemon juice, boil for a couple more minutes and add the blossom water of choice last.
  6. Remove from heat and serve the syrup over your pudding at room temperature.

Layali lobnan is a light, refreshing pudding, perfect for summer. Did I say it was a hit at my house-warming? Well it has my shield of approval and let’s raise a glass. Here is to six years of Eat Yourself Greek and many more delicious and carefree moments for everyone. 

From London with love, 

Eugenia

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