The birth of a baby is a beautiful occasion. All around the world it is celebrated in unique ways. In some cultures, gifts are handed out. In others, a Facebook status is updated. For the Lebanese folk, we eat meghli.
Meghli is a deliciously ugly rice pudding dessert that can be prepared to varying degrees of sweetness. Its key elements are white rice flour, caraway, anise seeds, and cinnamon. The caraway seed in particular has enormous health benefits and is recommended for breast-feeding mothers. It can enrich the quality of the mother’s milk and protect the baby from flatulence.
The word meghli means ‘boiled’ in Arabic. The dessert derives its name from the process by which it is prepared. Once you have all the ingredients ready, you throw them into a pot and you keep stirring until that baby (not the real one) starts boiling. And then you let it cook on the stove for a little while longer.
My favourite part of the process is decorating the small bowl of meghli with shredded coconut and nuts. You can use almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts. Any nut really.
My love for meghli has been rekindled recently. My sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful baby girl about two weeks ago and both grandmothers were quick to prepare meghli to serve to family and friends who came to visit the newborn.
You will find slight variations in different meghli recipes. The one below, for example, doesn’t use anise seeds as my mother (whose recipe this is) prefers a slightly milder taste to the dessert. And Mamma Z knows best.
1. 1c of rice powder
2. 1.5c of white sugar
3. 2 tsp of cinnamon
4. 2 small tsp of caraway
5. 8c of water
1. 1kg of shredded coconut
2. ½kg of pine nuts
3. ½kg of walnuts
4. ½kg of almonds
5. ½ kg of pistachio
1. Soak the pine nuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios in water, in separate containers, overnight. Keep these containers refrigerated during the process. The nuts will be used to garnish the meghli just before it is served.
2. Put all remaining ingredients in a large pot on the stove (low – medium heat).
3. Stir ingredients slowly until all ingredients melt and come to a boil. You must continue stirring faithfully until the ingredients begin to boil. You mustn’t stop stirring. Don’t. Stop. Stirring.
4. When the mixture starts to boil, put the stove on the lowest heat and leave the mixture on the stove for half an hour (remember to stir occasionally, about every five minutes or so, to ensure the mixture doesn’t stick to the pot). During this process, you will notice the mixture will slowly start to thicken.
5. Once the thirty minutes has elapsed, pour the mixture into small bowls.
6. Once the mixture in the bowls has cooled down, place the bowls in the fridge. Meghli should be served cold, so leave the bowls in the fridge for at least four hours before serving.
7. When you are ready to serve the meghli, garnish with the shredded coconut and assortment of soaked nuts.
Enjoy and sahtan!
By Fay Muhieddine