This layered dessert is a speciality of the southeastern city of Gaziantep (best known for baklava). In the Turkish name, the word sütlaç (pronounced ‘sutlatch’) means ‘milky rice pudding’ and the word astarlı means ‘the lining of a jacket’.
Saffron—either home-grown or imported from Persia—was an important ingredient in Ottoman cuisine, because it allowed the sultans to show off their wealth. Pretentious people got into the habit of leaving the saffron threads in the pudding so their guests could say: ‘Wow, that must have cost a bit!’ There’s actually no reason to leave the threads in, since all the flavour and colour you need is extracted by the warm water within 20 minutes.
I like to decorate my astarlı sütlaç with candied chickpeas, which you should be able to find in Middle Eastern food shops. But the dessert works perfectly well without them.
Wash the rice in cold running water to remove the excess starch. Transfer to a saucepan, add
Crush the mastic crystal into a powder, using a mortar and pestle or the handle of a knife, and then combine with the sugar. Heat the milk, mastic mixture and strained rice in a saucepan over medium heat, and bring to the boil. Combine the rice flour with
Next, make the topping. Put the saffron threads in a bowl and cover with
Cover the currants in warm water, leave for 10 minutes and then strain. Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes, shaking the pan constantly to evenly brown.
Rinse the rice in cold running water to remove the excess starch. Transfer to a saucepan and add
Remove the rice puddings from the fridge, cover with saffron topping and then refrigerate again for 1 hour.
Decorate the chilled astarlı sütlaç with the chickpeas and pomegranate seeds, and serve.
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