• With origins dating to Sassanid Persia, mouhalabieh is a much-loved dessert across Lebanon. Similar to flan, the final texture of this milk-based dessert should not be as firm as jelly, but rather more like thick custard

    Recipe and styling by Joe Barza

    Photograph by Justin Dingwall

    Mouhalabieh with apricot coulis and caramelised apples

    Serves: 4
    Cooking Time: 1 hr + 1 hr, to chill



    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 large apples, peeled and diced
    • 1 tsp rose water
    • 4 tsp brown sugar
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground nutmeg

    • 100g dried apricots
    • 2 tbsp castor sugar
    • 250ml (1 cup) boiling water

    • 1L (4 cups) full-cream milk
    • 90ml fresh cream
    • 150g white sugar
    • 70g cornflour
    • 60ml (¼ cup) water
    • 1 tsp rose water
    • 1 tsp orange blossom water
    • ½ tsp mastic gum granules/powder (find at select SPAR stores, select pharmacies and health stores, and Mediterranean delis)
    • edible flowers, to garnish (optional)



    For the caramelised apples, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the apples and sauté over medium heat until slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rose water, brown sugar, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Fry for a minute, then remove from heat and set aside until needed.


    For the apricot coulis, place the dried apricots, castor sugar and boiling water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the apricots have softened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and, using a hand-held blender, blitz the mixture to a jam-like consistency. Set aside until needed.


    For the mouhalabieh, place the milk, fresh cream and white sugar in a large saucepan placed over medium heat and whisk until the sugar has dissolved, 5 – 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously.


    In a separate bowl, mix the cornflour and water together to form a paste. Add the paste to the boiling milk mixture. Whisk until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes.


    Add the rose water, orange blossom water and mastic gum granules/powder. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.


    To serve, spoon a layer of the apricot coulis into 4 glasses, spreading it evenly at the bottom of each glass. Divide the mouhalabieh equally among the glasses. Refrigerate to chill, at least 1 hour.


    Remove from fridge, top each portion with some of the caramelised apple mixture and garnish with the edible flowers, if desired.