A few weeks back, I read two separate articles that helped inspire this dish. One discussed Sephardic culinary traditions that originated in North Africa, and the other addressed using rose water in modern cooking. Milk puddings thickened with rice flour, and often scented with rose water, is a traditional North African and Middle Eastern dish called malabi (in Israel), sutlage (in Turkey and the Balkans) or muhallabeya (in North Africa and rest of the Middle East). With the Jewish New Year passing and Yom Kippur coming up, I thought this could be a beautiful, sweet dish for the Break Fast meal.
Before starting this dish, I decided to dig a bit deeper and chatted with a friend of mine whose family comes from Sephardic culture, and she clued me in on a few things. First, her family eats something sweet immediately after the fast to get their blood sugar up. She also said her family clears the table after, so a dish like this, which has dairy, is totally fine. For a parve version, coconut milk (regular, lite or even half diluted with water) would work well as a substitute for milk.
But it was the symbolism I found even more interesting. Pomegranates have special significance because the number of seeds in the fruit corresponds with the mitzvots, or commandments of the Torah. Fascinating! Also, I plated these in individual, circular bowls to signify the full circle of the coming year, another symbolic gesture.
After all of the importance, the taste just seems secondary…but thank goodness because it is tasty! The fruity tartness of the pomegranate is offset by the sweet milk and the vanilla notes, and the rose comes later…almost like you are smelling it rather than tasting it. I love sprinkling the pomegranate arils on top for a juicy crunch to offset the texture of the pudding. This is delicious regardless of time of year! Enjoy…
4 to 6
3 pomegranates, juiced, or 3/4 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice*
Place a medium-sized bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching the water and at a medium heat) or use a double-boiler for this recipe.
In a small bowl, add the rice flour to the pomegranate juice in increments, whisking until thoroughly combined. You don’t want any lumps.
Heat the milk in the top of the double boiler. You should see bubbles around the edges, but the milk shouldn’t be boiling. Add pomegranate juice with rice flour, sugar, vanilla extract, rosewater, salt, and pomegranate molasses if using. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until thickened.
Again, there shouldn’t be any lumps, so blend with a hand blender if you happen to have a few. Ladle into serving cups or one large bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours.
Serve garnished with pomegranate arils.
*For the recipe, I seeded (messily…) 3 pomegranates, blended the arils, and strained out the juice. You can more easily do this in a juicer if you have one. If using bottled pomegranate juice, it’s definitely more concentrated than juicing the fruit, so I wouldn’t add the optional pomegranate molasses. Also, be careful of the sweetness if the pomegranate juice has added sugars…