Tag Archives: cream

Middle Eastern Ground Rice Pudding

Muhallabia is the arabic name of this delicate middle eastern dessert, made from ground rice and flavoured with rose-water. In Bahrain this is a very popular dessert and one of our family favourites. As Eid Al Adha is almost upon us, I thought I would also post a little information about an old tradition Hiya-Biya, which is very popular among the children of Bahrain around this time.



  • 500ml full-fat milk
  • 250ml whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons ground rice
  • 1/2 tablespoon corn flour
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons of rose-water (or more to taste)
  • to garnish, a handful of toasted silvered almonds

How to make: In a small bowl mix the ground rice and corn flour into a paste using a little of the milk. Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the rice paste and stir continuously using a whisk or wooden spoon. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for about 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens, taking care that the mixture does not burn at the bottom of the saucepan and spoil its flavour.

Add the sugar and ground almonds and cook for a further minute, stirring continuously. Remove for the heat and stir in the rose-water (use more if liked), cool slightly before pouring into a serving bowl or individual serving dishes. When cool cover and store in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight to chill. Garnish with toasted almonds before serving.

 Hiya-Biya an Old Tradition 

Seeing all the traditional Hiya-Biya baskets hanging outside the shops in Bahrain brings back memories of when my children were young and enjoyed this old tradition, celebrating the beginning of Eid Al Adha. Long before the festivity, the children would fill an empty basket with sand and plant some grass seeds. Each day the children would water the seeds and watch with great excitement as the grass grew in their little baskets.

On the eve of Eid Al Adha the children would dress up in traditional dress and gather by the sea-side. While swinging and singing a song about the Hiya-Biya (now that I have taken care of you, watered you, don’t forget to bring me joy over Eid and for the safe return of the Haj pilgrims), the children would then throw the Hiya-Biya into the sea, watching them drift away.

crostini topped with home-made ricotta cheese and garnished with gremolata

 ricotta cheese

Ricotta is a soft creamy but slightly grainy cheese, white in colour with a hint of sweetness to its flavour. Ricotta means “recooked” and is derived from the fact that the cheese is made by heating the whey (a by-product of cheese making) from another cheese such as mozzarella. Ricotta is a versatile cheese and can be used in savoury and sweet dishes. This home-made version may not be authentically Italian, but is really delicious, easy to make and a great introduction to cheese making. Simple ingredients used and no specialized equipment needed. So before you reach for the tub of Ricotta give this recipe a try… you might get hooked!

Home-made Ricotta Cheese


  • 500ml full-fat milk
  • 250ml whipping cream
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1+1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Useful Kitchen Jewellery:
  • saucepan
  • wooden spoons
  • sieve
  • straining bag
  • citrus juicer
  • mixing bowl
  • A simple introduction to cheese making, use a straining bag or cheesecloth to line the sieve

How to make: Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan, add the sea salt. Over a medium heat and stirring with a wooden spoon bring the liquid to almost boiling point. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Almost immediately the liquid will begin to curdle, leave un-disturbed for 5 minutes.

Curds and whey beginning to form after the addition of lemon juice

If you are using cheesecloth instead of a straining bag make sure you have a piece large enough that you can double over if you need too, my straining bag has a very fine mesh so I found that worked for me. How quickly the whey drains from the curds depends on the weave in the cheesecloth, so keep that in mind. Good quality white kitchen paper towels (no coloured designs) could be used instead of the cheesecloth.

Place the sieve over a heat-proof bowl lined with the cheesecloth/straining bag and spoon the curdled liquid into the center.

For a firmer consistency leave the curds to drain for about an hour

I like to strain the cheese for about an hour, as the longer you leave the cheese to strain the firmer its consistency will be. If you prefer a softer cheese strain for a shorter time, the cheese will firm up more when refrigerated.

The whey draining from the curds

Once the whey has been drained from the curds, discard the whey (could be used in bread making) and place the Ricotta cheese into an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. The Ricotta cheese will keep for about 3 days. I sometimes double the recipe if I find that I need a larger quantity. This recipe will give you about one cup of Ricotta cheese.

for the crostini

  • I french stick of bread, cut into slices (1cm thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half (optional)
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Gremolata

How to make: Preheat the oven grill to high and lightly toast the french bread slices on each side. Rub the cut side of the garlic over one side of each piece of toasted bread. Spread the cooled slices of french bread with some Ricotta cheese and then garnish each slice with some prepared Gremolata and serve.


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