This traditional Middle Eastern dessert recipe is from the late Alice Bezjian’s bestselling The Complete Armenian Cookbook published in 1983, and is reprinted courtesy of influential Armenian food blogger Robyn Kalajian at thearmeniankitchen.com.
Alice was born in 1913 in Cairo, Egypt, of Armenian parents. Her family moved to Asia Minor for a short time and later to Syria before finally settling down in Beirut, Lebanon. At an early age, she was introduced to the joy of cooking by her maternal grandfather. He was a widely traveled man, who had been around the world at a time when traveling was neither easy nor fashionable. He used to bring new recipes from faraway places and cook large dinners for the whole family. He often said that cooking was fun, but the greatest pleasure was sharing one’s creative dishes with appreciative friends. In Beirut, Alice took cooking lessons from the best known chefs in the country. She later gave cooking lessons and taught her students how to make and present food in creative, colorful, and appetizing ways. See: http://www.abrilbooks.com/alice-bezjian
In 1964, Alice moved to Los Angeles with her family where she and her husband, Hagop Garouj Bezjian, started a gourmet delicatessen store. The store was highly successful, and became a landmark location for many gourmet cooks, chefs, and food lovers in Southern California. Hagop passed away in 1990 in Los Angeles.
It is often said that Alice was always at her store, graciously dispensing her favorite recipes and culinary expertise with her friends and customers. Sunset Magazine and New West wrote articles about the store, and Alice’s traditional recipes were published in those
magazines. She went to her store frequently to meet her customers and exchange ideas and recipes before she passed away in 2003 in Los Angeles.
“Mouhalabiye is a classic, simple Lebanese pudding, similar to a blancmange in France or the Italian panna cotta. This is a light, fresh dessert coming straight from Lebanon, it is easy to prepare, and requires very few ingredients. It is similar to Haytaliyeh, a Syrian dessert,” adds Robyn. “The texture is almost like a flan, it’s soft and smooth but holds its shape well. Haytaliyeh is very refreshing during the hot summer days. It consists of whole milk cooked with cornstarch. When cold, the mixture is served with clotted cream or ice cream, and then rose petal jam or orange-blossom-infused syrup is poured over it.”