The Lebanese way of living dictates that food plays a central part in everyday life, social occasions and revelry. Celebrations are especially grand affairs where families, friends and neighbours come together to not only salute the happening of a certain event but to also indulge by eating lovingly prepared food. Something in the Lebanese psyche equates food and love and nowhere is that better shown than during a celebratory event, be it a wedding or otherwise.
One of the most elusive but enticing celebratory dishes is something known as meghli, a spiced rice-based dessert made to commemorate the birth of a new child. It is one of the things I most look forward to during family gatherings and on occasion have made it as a dessert on a regular week-night. Some things are special and as such are reserved for befitting occasions but I believe we can elevate meghli into becoming a quintessential Lebanese dessert. Flavoured with caraway, anise and cinnamon and topped with a multitude of optional extras, meghli is a real show stopper.
200g rice flour
2.5l of water
200g of sugar
20g caraway seeds (ground)
10g aniseed (ground)
10g cinnamon (ground)
optional extras: dessicated coconut, blanched almonds, pine nuts, pistachios and sultanas.
Pour two litres of water in an adequate saucepan, reserving 500ml in a glass jug. Add the sugar to the pan and heat up to boiling point (making sure the sugar has dissolved). Mix the remaining ingredients into the reserved water making sure to mix through thoroughly. Add the mixture to the sauce pan and once again bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and let the pan simmer, whisking as it cooks. This will keep bubbling for 30-45mins until the rice flour has thickened the meghli considerably. It sounds like hard work and I guess it is but it'll be so worth it. The cooked mixture will yield twelve small bowls/pots which you should fill as soon as you turn the heat off. Cover the tops with cling film to avoid the meghli forming a skin. You can eat it warm but generally it's eaten colder. Sprinkle with any of the optional extras and tuck in! Addictive, isn't it?