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aish el saraya – bread pudding

Join The National and Table Tales on a culinary journey around the Middle East to savor the quintessential dishes that embody the spirit of Ramadan. From table staples to family favourites, this series of recipes – one for each day of Ramadan – pays homage to the holy month and the home cook alike.

Aish el saraya, which translates as bread of the royal palace, is a luscious sweet of Ottoman origin. It is popular in the Levant, Egypt and Turkey, and is served in specialty sweet shops and cafes across the region.

This recipe is delicious, but also because simple and adaptable. I can make it anywhere as the ingredients are readily available: bread, cream and sugar

Hanan Sayed Worrell, of Table Talessays: “This is essentially a bread pudding made with aishta, the thick cream that rises to the top when milk is boiled, and garnished with pistachio slivers and a sprinkle of preserved safflower blossoms. It’s a dish that’s fit for a sultan, but surprisingly easy to make.”

Recipe contributor Roulana Jarrar says: “This is one of my favorite Arabic sweets, not only because it is delicious, but also because it is simple and adaptable. I can make it anywhere we live as the ingredients are readily available: bread, cream and sugar. You can use clotted cream or canned cream, such as Nestle or Puck, which is very common in the Gulf, or mascarpone cheese.

“The key is to caramelize the sugar to a rich brown hue. It is easiest to make in one large dish, but you can also make it in ramekins for individual servings.”

Roulana Jarrar’s aish el saraya – bread pudding

Serves 8 to 10


  • 12-15 slices of bread
  • 600g sugar, divided
  • 3 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp strong coffee
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 340g canned or clotted cream
  • 105g pistachios, ground or sliced
  • Preserved safflower blossoms or pomegranate seeds


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Remove the crust from the bread, place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden. Remove and crush to form breadcrumbs.
  2. Place 400 grams of the sugar and three cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  3. In another saucepan, add the remaining sugar over medium heat. Swirl the bread until the sugar dissolves and turns golden brown.
  4. Remove from the heat before the sugar crystallises and pour in the sugar syrup. Stir vigorously until all the sugar dissolves.
  5. Add the orange blossom water, coffee and honey.
  6. Pour two cups of the syrup over the breadcrumbs and mix well. If needed add more.
  7. Cover the bread mixture and leave for 15 to 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the syrup. (This can also be made several hours ahead of time, with the remaining steps done just before serving.)
  8. Spread the bread mixture in a circular or rectangular serving dish that is at least five centimeters deep and level with the back of a spoon.
  9. Evenly spread the cream over the top to cover the bread and garnish with the pistachios. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  10. Sprinkle with the preserved safflower blossoms or pomegranate seeds.

This dish has been brought to you by Roulana Jarrar and curated by international recipe hunter Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. The Table Tales concept celebrates the people and stories that give flavor to recipes of the Middle East.


More desserts in the Ramadan recipe collection:

Ramadan recipe: qatayef – Middle Eastern stuffed pancakes

Ramadan recipe: kunafa with cream

Ramadan recipe: luqaimat – sweet dumplings

Ramadan recipe: aniseed cake with tahini glaze


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