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Monday, 22 July 2013

How Savoury Can Become Sweet - Halawet il Jiben (Arabic Dessert made with cheese)

Halawet il Jiben
An Arabic dessert made with Cheese sprinkled with nuts then drenched with sugar syrup

I had recently been invited to like a facebook page "Wisdom in A Story", the page is written in Arabic, telling stories that have an underlying wisdom, morale or piece of advice. While browsing through the stories I found the one I am posting here today, which I thought is the best accompaniment for today's recipe.

Today, I am posting the recipe of Halawet il Jiben حلاوة الجبن, an Arabic dessert made out of cheese, which is essentially savoury. The cheese is sweetened, then mixed with Semolina to turn it into a dough. It is then filled with fresh Ashta قشطة (Arabic style clotted cream) and rolled to seal the filling. The rolls can be made in the size you desire (larger ones or small dainty ones depending how you want to serve the dessert).

Just as the savoury cheese was turned into an ultra sweet dessert, the story below is about an ultra savoury incident that turned into an extra sweet moment. So this is the post and the story of Savoury Sweet. The original story was posted on the page in Arabic, which I had copied and pasted below, followed by the English translation. 

If you read Arabic, I recommend you like this 'wisdom in a story' page, which you can find on this link and enjoy the stories, I am sure you will find some that you will like. 

In Spirit with Al Hakawati Ramadan Tradition

The Story in Arabic...

   كآنت هي فتآة ملفتة للإنتبآه وكآنَ هو شآباً عآدياً.
 في نهآية الحفلة تقدم ودعآهآ إلى فنجآن قهوة. تفآجأت بالطلب لكنهآ قبلت الدعوة خجلاً. كآن مضطرباً جداً ولم يستطع الحديث. هي شعرت بعدم الارتيآح وكآنت على وشك الإستئذآن. وفجأة أشآرَ للجرسون  قآئلاً : " رجآءً أريدُ بعض الملح لقهوتي ".
 الكل نظرَ إليه باستغرآب

 "سألَته بفضول : "لمآذآ فعلت ذلك,هل هي عآدة
 ردّ عليهآ قآئلاً : "عندمآ كنتُ صغيراً كنت أعيش بالقرب من البحر وأشعر بملوحته  تمآماً مثل القهوة المآلحة الآن. كلّ مرة أشرب فيهآ القهوة المآلحة أتذكر طفولتي , بلدتي , أصدقآئي وأشتآق لوآلدآي اللذآن لآيزآلآن هنآك إلى الآن" قآلت في سرهآ : "الرجل الذي يستطيع البوح بشوقه لبلده وأهله لآبدّ أن يكون رجلاً مُحباً يشعر بالمسؤولية تجآه بلده وأسرته" ثمّ بدأت بالحديث عن طفولتهآ وأهلهآ وكآن حديثاً ممتعاً.  

استمرآ في التلآقي واكتشفَت أنه الرجل الذي تنطبق عليه الموآصفآت التي تريدهآ ~ ذكي  طيب القلب , حنون. كآن رجلاً جيداً وكآنت تشتآق لرؤيته والشكر لقهوته المآلحة  تزوجهآ وعآشآ حيآةً رآئعة وكآنت كلمآ صنعت له قهوة وضعت فيهآ ملحاً لأنه يحبهآ  مآلحة

Vintage Arabic coffee Dallah (pot), sugar bowl, and trays

 وبعد 40 عآماً توفآه الله وترك لهآ رسآلة: "عزيزتي/ أرجوكِ سآمحيني على كذبة  
حيآتي كآنت الكذبة الوحيدة التي كذبتهآ عليكِ القهوة المآلحة. أتذكرينَ أول لقآءٍ بيننآ ...  كنتُ مضطربا وقتهآ وأردتُ طلب سكر لقهوتي وكان نتيجة لاضطرآبي طلبت ملحاً .. وخجلت من العدول عن كلآمي فاستمريت ... لم أكن أتوقع أن هذآ سيكون بدآية ارتبآطنآ سوياً .. الآن أنآ ميت لذلك لستُ خآئفاً من إطلآعك على الحقيقة , أنآ لآ أحب القهوة  المآلحة. يآلهُ من طعم غريب .. لكنّي شربتهآ طوآل حيآتي معكِ ولم أشعر بالأسف .. لأنّ وجودي معكِ يطغى على كلّ شيء .. لو أنّ لي حيآة أخرى أعيشهآ لعشتهآ معكِ حتى لو اضطررت لشرب القهوة المآلحة في هذه الحيآة الثآنية  

دموعهآ أغرقت الرسآلة وصآرت تشرب القهوة مآلحة سألهآ أحدهم : "مآطعم القهوة  المآلحة" فأجآبت :  إنهآ حلوة   


In English...
She was an attractive girl and he was an ordinary guy.
At the end of the party he asked her out for a cup of coffee. She was surprised at his request but courteously accepted. He was very anxious and could hardly speak, so she was feeling very uncomfortable and was just about ready to leave when he asked the waiter: "May I please get some salt for my coffee?"
Everyone looked at him with astonishment.
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Find it here
"Why did you do that, is it a habit?" She asked him curiously
"When I was a child, I used to live by the sea, and have always felt its saltiness, exactly as in this salty coffee. So every time I have salty coffee, I remember my childhood, my country, my friends and how much I miss my parents who are still living there." He replied
She thought: 'A man who is able to share his yearning for his family and country, must be a good and responsible man..' so she started telling him about her childhood and family. The conversation was interesting and both of them enjoyed.

They continued to see each other and she realised that he was the man she was looking for - smart, kindhearted and loving. He was a good man and she missed him when she did not see him. All thanks to his salty coffee, they eventually married and lived a great life. Every time she made him coffee, she seasoned it with salt because he liked it salted.

After 40 years, the man passed away leaving her a letter in which he wrote:
"Dear, please forgive me for the biggest lie of my life, Salted Coffee. It was the only lie I had ever told you. Remember our first date? That day I was very anxious and wanted to ask for sugar but mistakenly asked for salt instead. I was too embarrassed to admit it so I just went with it.... I never thought that was going to be the beginning of our relationship... I am now dead and therefore not worried about telling you the truth: I do not like salted Coffee! What an awkward flavour! But I drank it throughout my life with you without any regrets, because being with you made it all trivial. If I had another life to live, I would live it with you even if it means drinking salted coffee then too."

She cried as she read and thereon started drinking salted coffee.

Some one asked her: "How does salted coffee taste like?"
"Sweet" she replied


Halawet Al Jiben  -  حلاوة الجبن
Halawet il Jiben - حلاوة الجبن
(Sweetened Cheese Rolls Filled with Cream)
Serves 12
You Need
150 g Akawi Cheese (found in most supermarkets or specialty Middle Eastern stores)
¾ cup fine semolina flour
¾ cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp orange blossom water

1 recipe Qater (Sugar Syrup recipe on this link)
fresh Ashta or canned dessert cream (for filling)
¼ cup roughly ground pistachios for garnish
¼ cup rose petal jam for garnish

Sweeten the cheese a day in advance
A day before making this dessert, sweeten the cheese – get rid of the salt – by cutting it into medium cubes and soaking the cubes in water over night. The water must be frequently changed to get rid of the salt.

Make Qater and set aside.

To make the cheese and semolina dough 
In a cooking pot, mix together the fine semolina, sugar cheese, water and orange blossom and rose water. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are well incorporated.

You should have an elastic dough. Spread qater over a clean wooden board, then pour over the hot cheese dough.

Spread the cheese over the board, (the dough should be spread very thin, about ¼ cm thick). Spread the top with qater, then leave to cool completely before adding the Ashta filling.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 7cm² squares. Place 1 tsp Ashta or dessert cream on each square then roll the dough, over the filling, into a sausage. Repeat the process until all the squares are filled.

Line the rolls on a serving dish and drizzle with sugar syrup. Sprinkle the top with the roughly ground pistachios and top each roll with a dollop of Ashta then with ¼ tsp rose petal jam.

Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Serve cold with tea and sugar syrup on the side.


Halawet Al Jiben  -  حلاوة الجبن 
حلاوة الجبن 
 1/4 كوب سكر
3/4 كوب سميد ناعم
 3/4 كوب ماء
 150 g  جبن عكاوي
 قليل من ماء الورد
 قطر /  شيرة
فستق حلبي للتزيين

- يوضع السميد في طنجرة ثم يضاف السكر والجبن والماء وماء الورد ويوضع على النار

- تحرك المكونات مع بعض حتى يذوب الجبن وحتى تصبح عجينة مطاطية وتتشكل مثل الكرة

- ترش الشيرة على سطح خشبي

- تصب العجينة وهي ساخنة على الشيرة ثم يؤخذ من الشيرة ويوضع عليها ثم تفرد من فوق ومن تحت باستعمال الشيرة في تسهيل عملية الفرد

- تساوى الأطراف بالسكين

- تترك تبرد قبل إضافة القشطة

- يؤخذ مقدار من القشطة ويصف على العجينة ثم يقلب طرف العجينة وتلف مثل الرول ثم تقطع وتفصل عن باقي العجينة

- يلف باقي المقدار بنفس الطريقة ثم تقطع حسب الرغبة

- توضع بالثلاجة حوالي 2/1 ساعة ثم يرش عليها شوية شيرة وتزين بالفستق


Food for Thought
True friendship is unconditional.

Thank you for dropping by again and hopefully you have enjoyed this post, the story and learning how to make this exquisite Arabic dessert. Let me know which is your favourite Arabic dessert before you leave, I always like to know your preferences so do leave me a comment and let me hear your thoughts.

Come back tomorrow for 
Ramadan in UAE :)

The world is beautiful, all its people are beautiful, all cultures equally important, and all the same in the end - all out there for us to explore...
Ramadan Kareem