Home » Recipes » Middle Eastern Recipes » Desserts, Sweets & Drinks – Part 3

Desserts, Sweets & Drinks – Part 3


Easy Turkish Delight

The most evocative of Middle Eastern confectionery, Turkish Delight is headily fragrant, toothachingly sweet, and ever-so-slightly addictive.

COOK : 25 minutes

  • 4 gelatin sheets
  • 1 cup water
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon rosewater
  • a few drops of pink food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  1. Line a shallow 7½-inch square dish or plastic container with heat-safe plastic wrap. Put the gelatin into a shallow bowl, just cover with cold water, and let soak for 5 minutes.
  2. Squeeze the gelatin out well, then put it into a deep saucepan with the water and place over low heat until the gelatin has dissolved. Stir in the granulated sugar, rosewater, and food coloring, increase the heat to medium–high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes without stirring. Boiling sugar is extremely hot, so handle with care and make sure it doesn’t simmer over. Add more pink food coloring, if you desire.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and let cool to room temperature, then cover with more plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. The next day, mix the cornstarch and confectioners’ sugar together on a large, flat plate. Place the Turkish Delight on the mixture and carefully peel away the plastic wrap. Cut it into squares, coating each one with the confectioners’ sugar mixture as you work. Store in a sealed container and eat within a week.

Cook’s tip : Traditional Turkish Delight involves stirring the sugar for an hour or more, so this simple method is a real time saver.


Date, Pistachio & Honey Slices

People in the Middle East have for centuries packed dates as a provision for travelling through the desert. Here, with pistachio nuts and honey, they are delicious.

PREP : 30 minutes
COOK : 25 minutes
MAKES : 12

  • 1¾ cups pitted and chopped dates
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Dough
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon for dusting
  • 2 cups superfine or granulated sugar
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) cold butter, coarsely chopped
  • ¼–⅓ cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons milk, for glazing
  1. Put the dates, lemon juice, and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the pistachio nuts and 1 tablespoon of the honey. Cover and let cool. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. To make the dough, put the flour, sugar, and butter into a food processor and process to fine crumbs. Mix in just enough cold water to bind to a soft, not sticky, dough.
  3. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Divide the dough into two pieces, then roll out each piece to a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and top with a rectangle of dough. Spread the date mixture to within ½ inch of the edge of the dough, then top with the other rectangle of dough.
  4. Firmly press the edges together, then trim the excess and score the top to mark out 12 slices. Brush with the milk to glaze. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until golden. Drizzle with the remaining honey and turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut into 12 slices and serve.

Cook’s tip : Everything should be cold for making pastry, including your hands and work surface.


Roasted Figs with Honey & Thyme

You don’t need to do much with fresh figs, but roasting them is a wonderful way to bring out their flavor. This dish is perfect for a smart dinner party dessert, and no one will believe how easy it is to make. Use Greek-style plain yogurt instead of labneh if you are in a hurry.

PREP : 10 minutes
COOK : 20 minutes

  • 8 figs
  • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme, broken into pieces
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup labneh, to serve (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep X shape through each fig, stopping just before it reaches the bottom, and stuff it with two pieces of thyme.
  2. Line a small roasting pan with crumpled parchment paper, letting it come up the sides. Put the figs on the paper, drizzle a tablespoon of honey onto each fig, then sprinkle with the remaining thyme.
  3. Roast the figs for 20 minutes. Serve two figs per person, hot, with the syrup in the parchment paper and a generous spoonful of labneh, if using.

Cook’s tip : You can prepare this dessert in advance, then warm it through in the oven at 300°F for 10 minutes before serving.


Apricots Poached in Rosewater & Cardamom with Ginger Yogurt

This is one of the easiest desserts to make, and the apricots will bring some sunshine to the table. Your guests will be delighted by its exotic fragrance and gently spiced flavor.

PREP : 20 minutes
COOK : 15 minutes

  • ¾ cup superfine or granulated sugar
  • 6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ teaspoon rosewater
  • 1½ cups water
  • 4 apricots, halved and pitted
  • 1 tablespoon dried edible rose petals, to decorate (optional)
  • Ginger yogurt
  • ½ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  1. Put the sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, rosewater, and water into a saucepan, stir, and cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Increase the heat to medium–high, bring to a boil, then lower in the apricots, using a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them rest in the syrup for 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the apricots to a serving bowl, using the slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, slip off and discard the skins.
  4. For the ginger yogurt, put the yogurt into a small serving bowl, stir in the ginger, cover, and set aside.
  5. Return the syrup to the heat and boil until reduced by half. Pour the syrup over the apricots, then sprinkle with the dried rose petals, if using. Serve the apricots with the ginger yogurt. If not serving immediately, let them cool, then cover and chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.

Cook’s tip : Rosewater comes in different strengths, depending on the make. The one used for this recipe was strong, and the amount gives it a gentle rosiness. Adjust according to your brand and taste.


Persian Rice Pudding with Rosewater & Cardamom Syrup

This rich, scented rice pudding provides a comforting way to round off a Middle Eastern meal. The syrup adds a hint of sophisticated sweetness that enhances the creaminess of the rice.

PREP : 10 minutes

  • 11 green cardamom pods
  • ½ cup basmati or other long-grain rice, rinsed well
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ teaspoon rosewater
  • ⅓ cup superfine or granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh edible rose petals
  1. Cut five of the cardamom pods in half, scrape the seeds into a mortar and pestle, and crush them. Put them into a saucepan.
  2. Add the rice, 1¼ cups of the milk, the rosewater, and 2 teaspoons of the sugar to the pan and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding an extra ladleful of milk every 10 minutes, or when the rice has absorbed all the milk.
  3. When the rice pudding is nearly ready, put the remaining sugar into a separate saucepan with the water, then cook over medium–low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the remaining cardamom pods and the rose petals, then simmer for 2–3 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened.
  4. Serve the rice pudding hot, with the syrup drizzled over the top.

Cook’s tip : Cardamom pods come black and green. Black cardamom has a smoky flavor; green has a softer, more balanced flavor.

Authentic dishes from the Middle East

Rukmini Lyer