Burbara: Middle Eastern Spiced Wheatberry Porridge

London's porridge sensation Alex Hely-Hutchinson, founder of 26 Grains, starts her cookbook by stating: 'Everybody has a story about porridge'. It's true. Porridge is eaten across so many different cultures and is made in many ways, based on different grains, methods, and flavours. Of course the Middle East has its answer, in fact, it has several porridge-like dishes, but I thought I'd try my hand at making the Levantine 'Burbara' with a bit of a 26 Grains twist.  

Burbara is traditionally eaten on St. Barbara's day by Christians in the Levant, and it's usually served as a dessert, be it hot or cold. Although it's loaded with loads of great stuff (nuts, spices, grains), it is normally very sweet, so I've toned it down to make it a bit more breakfasty. 

Recipe - Serves 2


100g wheatberries, whole wheat grain, or pearl barley (soaked in 250ml water overnight, or at least 30 minutes)
250ml almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp aniseed
1/2 tsp nutmeg
maple syrup, to taste
a handful of pine nuts, toasted
a handful of pistachios
a handful of pomegranates
half an apple, grated or julienned
date syrup, to drizzle
a dollop of greek yoghurt


1. Place your soaked wheatberries and their water in a pan on the hob. Add the almond milk and spices, and boil for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down and simmer for a further 30 minutes or until the wheat grains have softened, stirring occasionally so they don't stick to the pan.
2. When you're ready to serve, add in however much maple syrup you'd like to sweeten your porridge. Pour into two serving bowls and top with the nuts, pomegranate, apple, a drizzle of date syrup, and a dollop of greek yoghurt.
3. Serve immediately. Without the toppings this will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Middle Eastern Mahalabiya with Almond Milk & Maple Syrup

I cannot deny that Middle Eastern desserts are some of my favourites. I've never really been a baklawa person, and that's often what first comes to mind when people think of Arabic desserts. But throw me some rosewater and an extra helping of pistachios, and I'm there. Mahalabiya, a rose water and pistachio milk pudding, is top of my list.


I used to make this with my grandmother (bibi) all the time. She used to always make little pots - one for me, one for her, and one extra for whoever was coming over later. Because of that, I'll always prefer having my own little bowl of it rather than scooping some out of a big one, which is how it is more typically served.


It helps that my brother brought back some of the most beautiful handmade ceramic bowls from his recent trip to Palestine. I've been wanting to recreate mahalabiya for a while now, and with such pretty bowls at hand, I thought this was the perfect opportunity!

Traditionally, the dessert is made with whole milk and caster sugar. However, I thought I'd experiment with making it a little bit more healthy by substituting the normal milk with almond milk, and the sugar with maple syrup. I was pretty nervous as I had my grandma's sister (basically grandma number 2) on the other end of the phone waiting to hear whether my messing around with her recipe had worked or not!

Thankfully, it turned out just as I'd hoped. The almond milk makes it feel so much lighter and adds a lovely texture, and the maple syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness. Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, and delicious!

It's actually also probably the easiest, quickest, and least-messy dessert I've ever made. You can whip it up in a matter of minutes, and just need a little bit of patience whilst waiting for it to set. 

Here goes...!


2 cups almond milk (plus 1/4 almond milk)
2 tablespoons rosewater
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/4 cup almond milk


1. Pour the 1/2 cup almond milk and the maple syrup into a saucepan and warm over a medium heat. 

2. Meanwhile, place the cornflour in a mug and add the extra 1/4 almond milk. Working quickly, mix these together with a spoon to form a paste.

3. Take the milk and syrup mixture off the heat, and add in the cornflour paste. Stir, and bring back onto the heat. 

4. Continue stirring until the cornflour has completely dissolved and the mixture thickens to the consistency of cake batter. Do not allow the mixture to boil!

5. Divide the mixture into small bowls, and leave to cool completely.

6. Transfer the bowls to the fridge, and leave them to set for a few hours, or even overnight. Decorate with ground and whole pistachios, and some edible rose petals if you have any!