Sachlab — a warm drink loved by children and adults alike —is the epitome of Levantine comfort food. Also known as sachlav and salep, every country seems to have its own take on the recipe with its own favorite toppings.
My recipe also doubles as malabi, a traditional boiled milk pudding, well-loved in Israeli and Middle Eastern home cooking. Malabi is a favorite after-school snack and lightly sweetened dessert at my home.
While the recipe is identical, sachlab is served warm immediately after cooking and malabi is ladled out and chilled until it’s set into a firm pudding. The base takes less than 15 minutes to make.
This recipe is lightly scented with rosewater, which I love but I apply sparingly. Feel free to add more to your taste, or leave it out altogether.
You can choose to serve this recipe hot or cold, in mugs, mini ramekins, or even in elegant crystal glasses for dessert. It’s gluten-free, Passover- and Shavuot-friendly, and can also be made pareve or vegan if you use a nut milk instead of whole milk.
Once served, top it with cinnamon, pistachios, walnuts, coconut, raisins, dates — you get the drift.
Sachlab or malabi
4 cups whole milk, coconut milk or almond milk
4 tablespoons corn or potato starch
6 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
½ teaspoon rosewater, optional
Measure 4 cups of milk into a heavy-bottomed pan and place on a medium-sized burner on the stovetop.
Ladle about half a cup of cold milk into a smaller dish.
Turn the heat of the burner to medium/low.
Whisk the starch of your choice into the smaller bowl of milk until the powder is combined with the milk. After about 5-7 minutes, when the milk in the pot is just starting to feel warm to the touch, add the honey and vanilla before whisking in the starch/milk mixture until combined, stirring a few times per minute to make sure that the starch mixes nicely into the milk.
Reduce the heat to simmer, and stir constantly as the mixture softly boils and begins to thicken. It is important that the mixture be continually stirred so that it does not scald on the bottom of the pan.
Continue stirring for 2-3 minutes, then remove the pot from heat.
It is important not to allow this mixture to sit in the pan, or it will develop a layer of “skin” over the top. For sachlab, ladle into mugs and serve immediately, adding your desired spices or toppings.
For malabi pudding, ladle immediately into cups or glasses. Allow the pudding to rest at room temperature until cool, then cover with plastic wrap and transfer the cups to the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours, or until firm.
Remove from the refrigerator when you’re ready to serve and add your favorite toppings. I like to put out small bowls of each fruit and nut, so that my family and guests can add what they prefer.
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.