Its festival season in India again. Eid, Onam, Diwali, and many other festivals are nearing. So I’m starting off with eid specials which is due month end. Celebrations are always accompanied with some sweet dishes which represent happiness and contentment. For this Eid, I have come up with a Middle Eastern dessert, Umm Ali which is luscious and simple.
Cooked pieces of puff pastry combined with nuts, raisins and coconut, covered in hot sweetened milk and cream, Om Ali is a great comfort food. What makes it even more delicious, are the interesting (if gruesome) stories behind its origin!
Legend has it that Om Ali was the first wife of the Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. In Egypt, women were not allowed to rule, but were permitted to be guardians to their sons who would become king when they came of age. When the sultan died, his second wife had a dispute with Om Ali over whose son would be the successor to the Sultan. The second wife was heavily guarded making it difficult for Om Ali to get rid of her.
Om Ali hatched a plot bribing the second wife’s handmaids. While the second wife went to the hamam for a bath, she was beaten to death, by slippers, by her own handmaids! To celebrate her death, Om Ali made this dessert and distributed it among the people of the land.
Another story involves again a sultan, who started to feel peckish during a hunting trip in the Nile delta. The hunting party stopped for food at a poor village along the way. The locals called upon their best cook, Umm‘Ali, to feed the hungry monarch. She filled a large pan with the little they had – scrapings of stale wheat flakes with bits of nuts – and put it in the oven together with milk and sugar. It was so well received that the sultan went back again and thus the dessert became known by its creator.
This legendary dessert has got different versions now. The puff pastry base is substituted with butter croissants or puff pastry bisuicts. I’ve used puff pastry biscuits instead puff pastry sheets. Shredded coconut/coconut flakes are also added by some. I avoided this as my kids dont prefer it.
I added condensed milk alone for sweetness, if you prefer less creamy milk, then go on and combine sugar and condensed milk in half half quantity. Vanilla essence when combined with orange blossom water gives a traditional arab flavoring to this dish.
Get ready in advance for this Eid and try out this special recipe.
Layer the sticks in a baking tray. Sprinkle the nuts and raisins and keep aside.
Boil the milk in a sauce pan adding condensed milk. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Pour 3/4th of the milk over the set biscuit layer and rest for 30 minutes.
In the remaining milk, add both the essences and combine.
Pour this over the soaked biscuits.
Bake in preheated oven at 180 degree Celsius for 30 minutes.
Serve hot and Enjoy!!!!!