Meghli: A Cinnamon/ Anise/ Caraway-Infused Dessert (Vegan, Gluten-Free)

Meghli-caraway-pudding-gluten-free-vegan-dessert

For some reason, I have always associated the smell of cinnamon with autumn (thinking pumpkin pie), but a stronger bond between spice and season arose with the birth of my daughter (who was also born during autumn). However, the association of cinnamon with the scent of October was not because of pumpkin pie, but it was because of Meghli, one of my favorite Lebanese desserts, which is usually served to celebrate the birth of a baby. I had it nearly everyday when my daughter was born, sometimes using the old wives’ tale (that it’s good for nursing) as an excuse to indulge! I still crave Meghli at this time of year, every year, with lots of good reasons other than the nostalgic connection with the aroma. For one thing, it’s absolutely delicious. It’s also a light treat, with less than 120 calories per bowl. In addition to being light, it’s also actually very healthy, with the nut toppings being a great source of good fats and minerals. And finally, what I like about my version is that it isn’t too sweet–what I can’t stand is a sappy, sticky version of Meghli, which makes it more like a treacly gone bad (some people like it that way, though). For me, a good Meghli must be light and refreshing, leaving your palate with a cool tropical sensation. Cinnamon, anise, and caraway are all naturally-sweet spices that don’t need a whole load of sugar to boost a sweet impression. Plus, along with the desiccated coconut flakes, you barely need much added sweetness, just a hint in order to accentuate the already-existing flavor.

Meghli-pudding

My version of Meghli has been a wee bit modified to make it healthier without compromising the taste (as a matter of fact, it’s a bit hit among our friends). I don’t use any refined sugars at all–only some natural coconut sugar (made from evaporated coconut juice) and a little bit of honey. Usually, all our friends comment on the taste and ask for encores, so I guess that’s a good sign that the lack of refined sugar isn’t really taking any of the flavor at all!

Meghli-gluten-free

Meghli is really very easy to make, with only a few ingredients (the main ingredient being water!). However, one pet peeve about preparing this yummy dessert is that because it is water-based, it requires quite alot of stirring to thicken–you can easily find yourself stirring for at least 30 minutes! But every minute is worth it, which is what keeps bringing me back into the kitchen to make it 🙂

Ingredients (makes around 10-12 small custard bowls):

1 cup brown rice powder (or white rice powder if you cannot find the slightly healthier option)

9 cups anise-infused water (infuse with 1 tablespoon of aniseeds)

9 tablespoons coconut sugar

5 tablespoons natural honey

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground caraway (if you cannot find the ground version, grind the seeds in a coffee grinder)

1 cup desiccated coconut flakes

A handful of each, soaked in cold water for a few hours: pistachos, sultanas, pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts (make sure to soak each one in a separate cup in order to avoid staining the almonds and pine nuts, which must remain blanched).

Preparation:

  1. In a large pot, mix together the anise-infused water, rice flour, coconut sugar, and honey. Stir until dissolved
  2. With the stove on medium heat, stir the mix with a wooden spoon in order to prevent the rice from sticking at the bottom of the pot.
  3. When the concoction starts to boil, reduce the heat in order to avoid burning your fingers with any hot squirts that may fly out of the pot. Keep stirring for at least half an hour.
  4. Once the liquid thickens into a custard-like consistency, add the caraway, cinnamon, and half the coconuts and keep mixing for another 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the Meghli into the bowls, and allow to cool for about an hour before you cover them with cling film and refrigerate them for another couple of hours.
  6. When you are ready to serve, just remove the bowls from the fridge and garnish with the coconut flakes, nuts, and sultanas.

Enjoy! 🙂

Roula

happy harvest

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