Arabic honey slice

Arabic honey slice

New Middle Eastern Food
18–24 pieces
Mark Roper

A kind of Middle Eastern panforte, this ancient Arabic sweetmeat known as alaju comes from Spain courtesy of the Moors. It’s a bit fiddly skinning the blanched pistachios, and not essential if you can’t be bothered, but the resulting nuggets of brilliant jade green are a joy to behold. Toast them for a few minutes brushed with a little oil in a really hot oven to make them nice and crunchy. Similarly, it is worth shallow-frying the almonds to a golden brown, for a toastier flavour and a superior crunchy texture. Once the nuts are out of the way, the rest of the recipe is simple.


Quantity Ingredient
50ml vegetable oil
125g whole blanched almonds
30g blanched and peeled unsalted pistachio kernels
250g honey
coarsely grated zest of 1/2 lemon and 1 orange
150g stale white bread, crusts removed
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
1 teaspoon aniseeds, roasted and lightly crushed
2 sheets rice paper, each 24 cm square


  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the almonds over a gentle heat until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. Repeat with the pistachios.
  2. Put the honey in a saucepan with the citrus zests and slowly bring to a simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, whiz the bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs. Add the nuts to the hot honey, then the breadcrumbs. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes. It will look very unpromising to start with, and after a few minutes it will begin to come together in a solid mass and thicken to a stiff, almost glutinous paste. Keep stirring and turning, which will become increasingly hard work, until the 5 minutes is up. Then remove the pan from the heat and add the orange-flower water and aniseeds, stirring again to incorporate them into the mass.
  4. Turn the mixture out onto on sheet of rice paper and pat it into a round disc about 20 cm in diameter. Cover with the second piece of rice paper and press down gently to about a finger’s width in height. You may find it easier to use a small jar or a rolling pin to roll the paste out to a smooth, even height. Neaten the edges with a sharp knife and allow to cool. Store in an airtight tin and slice off pieces to serve with coffee as a petit four.
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