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Layali libnan

I make this dish and remember late summer night family gatherings in the Middle East and this cooling dessert.

It can get really cold and dreary in London, and everyone has that one recipe that reminds them of summer; mine is Layali Libnan. Whenever I feel down and am missing summer and huge family gatherings, I make this dish and remember late summer night family gatherings in the Middle East and this cooling dessert.

This dessert is great because most of its ingredients are pantry basics. Semolina, sugar and powdered milk are things I always have on hand and the only "specialty" ingredient in the ishta or cream, which is available both fresh and canned in any Middle Eastern supermarket and they both work for this recipe. If you decide to use canned ishta, I'd suggest you refrigerate it, along with the bananas, so that the entire dish is cold.

Many people have asked why I use powdered milk rather than fresh milk. Although you can use either, I find that the powdered milk gives it a velvety creaminess you can't get with fresh milk. Also, the bananas are not a traditional topping, but my family adds it and I think it is the perfect topping for the creamy bottom layer. You can leave them out or even use a topping of your choice.

Another great thing about it is that you can make the bottom layer a day or two in advance and just top it with the ishta and bananas before serving. This dessert is so fast and simple, the hardest part is waiting for it cool.


  • 1 cup fine semolina
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. orange blossom or rose water (optional)
  • 300g fresh cream
  • 2-3 bananas
  • Pistachios
  • Syrup


1. Place the semolina, powdered milk, water and sugar in a large pot. Whisk together. Place on medium heat and whisk continuously until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom or rose water. Pour the mixture into a serving dish. I like to pour mine into a clear glass dish to show off the layers.

2. Allow it to come to room temperature and then refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. I prefer to let mine set overnight.

3. Top with a layer of fresh cream and sliced bananas. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios and serve. Drizzle each slice with syrup to taste. Enjoy!

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