This Middle Eastern rice pudding is sweetened with a boozy anise liquor-flavoured sugar syrup and fresh strawberries atop.






Skill level

Average: 4.6 (4 votes)


  • 1 litre milk
  • 110 g (½ cup) arborio rice, or any short-medium grain rice
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 55 g (¼ cup) sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 250 g strawberries, halved
  • 3 tbsp chopped pistachios
  • picked lemon balm leaves, to serve
  • finely grated pistachios, to serve

Sugar syrup

  • 20 g (1 cup) sugar
  • 100 ml arak, or other anise spirit
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Cooling time: 2.5 hours

  1. Reserve 125 ml (½ cup) milk and place the remaining milk in a large saucepan with the rice, vanilla bean, vanilla seeds and the cinnamon and bring to the boil. Add the sugar and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. By this stage the rice should have softened and be fully cooked.
  2. Mix the cornflour with 125 ml (½ cup) water and whisk into the reserved milk. Stir the cornflour mixture into the rice mixture and cook over low heat, stirring every few minutes until the rice has thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.
  3. Spoon the rice mixture into serving dishes and set aside to cool, then refrigerate for a few hours or until set.
  4. For the sugar syrup, place the sugar and 250 ml (1 cup) water in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until it comes to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, the stir in the arak, sumac and cinnamon, then remove from the heat.
  5. Place the strawberries in a bowl, pour over the hot the hot syrup, then top with the chopped pistachios. Stand until cool.   
  6. Once the rice pudding has set, top with the cooled strawberries in syrup and a few lemon balm leaves. Finely grate some pistachios over the top and serve.



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