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How to make Syrian halawet el-jibn | Dine & Discover

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Halawet el-jibn translates to cheese dessert and is usually saved for special occasions such as Ramadan and Eid (MEE)

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Hello. I'm Dina Macki. Welcome to the second episode of Dine & Discover.

In the coming weeks I'll be taking you through a series of recipes famed across the MENA region that you can easily recreate in your own homes. 

This week's recipe takes us to Syria, a country famed for its desserts.

You haven't indulged in a true Middle Eastern dessert until you have had it drenched in syrup and stuffed with cheese. 

Originating in Hama, Syria, these small rolls are an absolute gem. Halawet el-jibn translates to cheese dessert and is usually saved for special occasions such as Ramadan and Eid. They are so easy to make and store in the fridge that you would be silly not to whip these out for an indulgent sweet treat to share with family and friends. 


Recipe

Makes: 20-24 pieces

Preparation and cooking time: Preparation: 4-8 hours. Cooking: 45 minutes

Halawet el-Jibn

1. Ingredients

Ashta* (cream)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 100ml milk
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
 
* Alternatively, you may be able to purchase it ready-made from Middle Eastern supermarkets

Syrup

  • 400g granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • A squeeze of lemon juice (about 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp rose water or orange blossom water

Dough

  • 375ml water
  • 150g sugar
  • 160g fine semolina
  • 240g fresh mozzarella cheese, drained and shredded

Garnish

  • Ground pistachios
  • Rose petals

2. Method

If you’re making your ashta from scratch, start making it first as it needs at least four hours to set.

Ashta

  1. In a saucepan, gently whisk together your double cream, milk, cornflour and ground cardamom.
  2. Turn the heat onto medium, keep whisking until the cream begins to thicken - don’t over whisk or it’ll split. 
  3. Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film touching the surface to prevent skin from forming, allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill for a minimum of four hours. 
Ashta

Syrup

  1. In the small saucepan, combine together the sugar, water, squeeze of lemon juice and rose water.
  2. Set on the stove top over a medium-high heat. Do not stir your syrup, allow all the sugar to dissolve or you will end up with crystallisation. 
  3. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for no longer than 10 minutes. Set a timer! The syrup will thicken slightly and have a consistency similar to pancake syrup. If it simmers for longer it could thicken too much and become candy-like and not pourable.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. 
Halawet el-Jibn dough

Dough

  1. In a wide non-stick pan over medium-high heat, dissolve your sugar in water. Bring to the boil then add in the fine semolina, stirring constantly with a spatula until well combined and slightly thickened - for about 30 seconds.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium, then add in the shredded cheese, and stir well until the cheese melts and the mixture forms a soft, cohesive dough.
  3. Allow it to cool briefly until it's warm enough to handle.
  4. Divide the dough into two equal pieces; take one half of the dough to work with and cover the other half. Turn out the dough onto a sheet of cling film and cover with another sheet.
  5. Roll out the dough between the two sheets of cling film into a 9in x 13in (23cm x 33cm) rectangle. Remove the cling film on top once rolled.
  6. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, trim off the irregular sides of the dough to form a clean-cut rectangle. You could use a ruler or the edge of an object to help you get straight sides.
Rolling out dough

Piping and rolling

  1. Fill a piping bag with the ashta and snip off about 1in (2cm) of the tip. Start piping the ashta on the long side closest to you, leaving a 1in (2cm) border. 
  2. Using the plastic wrap under the dough, lift the dough and roll it over the cream filling until the cream filling is completely covered and the dough seals it in - looking like a thin log.
  3. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, make a cut alongside the log to slice it off from the rest of the dough. Repeat this process to make two more logs. 
  4. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
  5. Wrap each log with cling film and place in the fridge for a couple of hours to help firm up. Once chilled, take a sharp knife and divide the logs into 1.5in (4cm) pieces. You should have 20 to 24 pieces.
syrup

To serve

  1. Arrange the rolls on the serving platter, sprinkle each with a little ground pistachio in the centre and dried rose petals.
  2. Serve alongside the syrup, drizzling each piece with some before eating. Store any leftovers in an airtight container and place in the fridge. 
halawet el jibn served in a plate

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