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.
In Issue No. 1 we meet Australian fashion icon Jenny Kee, translator from Italian Ann Goldstein and French-Cuban music duo Ibeyi. We learn about Ramadan, the Aboriginal ball game Marngrook, the Kiribati dance, the art of pickling, and the importance of home. And we see what it’s like to dress up in Myanmar, live in Cuernavaca, make ceramics from different soil, and walk the streets of Florence.
In Issue No. 2 we meet New York-based Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson, and Croatian painter Stipe Nobilo. We discover how the French protect their language and the way women—all around the world—have used textiles as their political voice. We listen to lovers rock, prepare a boisterous Korean barbecue, venture to go to Feria de Jerez and eat our way around Hong Kong.
In Issue No. 4 we meet Nigerian-born artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, Indigenous Australian Elders Uncle Bob Smith and Aunty Caroline Bradshaw, and Palestinian-American chef and artist Amanny Ahmad. We peer inside the Parisian ateliers Lesage and Lemarié, muse over the iconic lines of European chair design and celebrate the colourful woodblock prints of Japanese artist Awazu Kiyoshi. And we venture along Morocco’s Honey Highway, get lost in the markets of Oaxaca and discover the favours of Ghana.
In Issue No. 5 we travel to the mountains with Etel Adnan, along coastlines wherever waves roll in, and then all over the world through the photographic archive of Lindsay James Stanger. We celebrate hair braiding in South Africa, Salasacan weaving techniques in Ecuador, Vedic jewellery traditions and the new sound of Ukraine. We meet artist Cassi Namoda, choreographer Yang Liping and lace-maker Mark Klauber. And we visit a bakery in Tel Aviv, discover the joys of making arak, and spend a summer stretching mozzarella in Italy.