This is a very light dessert that is simple, cheap to make and can be prepared far in advance, which is our favourite kind of dessert when cooking for a large group.
They say the name of this pudding comes from the Umayyad Prince of Damascus, Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra. One day, the bored potentate ordered his servants to make him something different, a special pudding, and this is what they came up with using the only ingredients they had in – milk, sugar, starch and mastic. Apparently the pudding then became known as the “milk of the princes”, but commoners soon caught on to how simple it was to prepare and it became known amongst them as the “milk of the commons”. Nowadays people flavour the milk with a variety of spices, depending on each individual’s taste.
This pudding has a smooth texture, with the nuts on top adding a crunch, which Syrians love. This is one of the most ubiquitous desserts in Damascus and one you would find everywhere in the city.
1 litre milk
3 tbsp cornflour, mixed with water
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp rose water or orange blossom water
20g pistachios, crushed
rose petals, to decorate (optional)
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and sugar on a low heat, stirring regularly. Just before it boils, add the cornflour mix and stir constantly until it thickens, then add the vanilla and rose or orange blossom water. Once it reaches a nice thick consistency, pour the mix into individual bowls or trifle glasses and leave to cool.
Once cool, put them in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
When you are ready to serve the pudding, sprinkle with the crushed pistachios and, if you want some extra colour, rose petals.
Extracted from Syria: Recipes from Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi (Trapeze, approx €30).