Not so long ago, a Christmas feast in Lebanon wouldn’t be complete without the traditional meghli dessert—an earthy rice pudding symbolic of new birth. Otherwise reserved for welcoming a baby into the family, this dish frequents Christmas eve feasts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Prepared over two days, meghli is a labour of love usually made by the grandmothers of the family. The pudding’s brown tones—made possible with Middle Eastern spices—represent a rich, fertile soil while the decorative pistachios and almonds symbolise new life. The connections to new life continue in the ingredients; carraway is a longstanding home remedy believed to increase milk production in new mothers while cinnamon seemingly sweetens the milk.
Though it may not be as common today, the simple yet elegant meghli dish remains a perfect symbol for birth and Christmas, with its warm flavours bringing families together throughout Lebanon.
This meghli recipe comes from Tawlet, a farmers’ kitchen and social enterprise based in Beirut’s Souk el Tayeb. Tawlet celebrates Lebanese tradition and community with a wide network of farmers, cooks and producers sharing stories of their region and history through food.
Photo by Beth Wilkinson for Lindsay.
100 g almonds
100 g shelled pistachios
10 cups water
1 cup rice flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tbs caraway
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1 tbs ground aniseed
Serves: 8 / Skill level: Easy / Vegan
1. In separate bowls, soak almonds and pistachios overnight. The next day, peel off the skins and cut in half.
2. Bring 9 cups of water to the boil.
3. Combine rice flour, sugar and spices with the remaining 1 cup of water.
4. Add the mixture to the boiling water and mix well.
5. Reduce the heat and return to the boil.
6. With a clean wooden spoon, stir constantly to prevent the rice sticking to the pan, until the mixture thickens.
7. Pour into individual serving bowls and leave to cool.
8. Garnish with almonds and pistachios.