November 24th, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I love any holiday revolving around food.
In celebration of this truly awesome day, I’m wallowing in past delicacies and the delights yet to come. Particularly the discoveries I made in Sharjah, and a little bit of traditional feasting too. A meditation on great foods.
I know what you’re thinking. Who spends a morning thinking about food they ate last week?
Me that’s who. It’s a little ridiculous, I know. But then isn’t the entire cornucopia affair meant to be a little OTT?
I said I would celebrate the foods of Sharjah, which was usually traditional Middle Eastern fare – most days, a mix between Egyptian and Lebanese. It was delicious.
Here are my top three discoveries of the trip:
Best Beverage: LemonMint
I easily had the best juice of my life in Sharjah. There is an abundance of amazing fruit. The hands down winner however, is lemon mint.
Think super tangy, fresh [cloudy] lemonade. I say cloudy because crazy British people call Sprite lemonade. Which it obviously isn’t.
Take freshly made, sharp lemonade and add pureed fresh mint leaves.
I know. You are skeptical. I would be too.
Trust me, the sweet, tangy, zestiness is the ultimate indulgence.
The leaves are blended so fine it’s served like foam on a cappuccino, giving it a mildly exotic look and plenty of punch without being too leafy, muddy or thick.
Best Sweet: Om Ali
This is the food of kings.
While I have always been skeptical of Western bread and rice puddings, this has convinced me to reassess my prejudice.
It is essentially, a warm, sticky, sweet porridge – but made with wheat instead of oats.
The waitress at the hotel insisted it was semolina based, while online I mostly find reference to crushed filo pastry. Either way, it’s a clotted, creamy pile of goo which I adore.
I hope I can figure out how to make it – but roughly I think it’ll go like this:
Take filo, buttered and baked, then pour over a steamy concoction of cream, coconut milk & almond powder. Add in toasted nuts and/or raisins. Bake it til it turns to mush, then grill until the top is browned and bubbling.
Best Savoury: The nameless pastry puffs
Rather like little samosas, these were triangular pockets filled with shredded, blanched greens plus pinenuts and tons of zingy lemon & garlic.
I tried them in every eatery I could.
The best were a puffy dough [like Olga bread or naan], lightly fried, though others were more traditional pastry or even breading.
I wish I’d thought to ask someone what they were called, they would be a worthy addition to my kitchen any day.
On an unrelated note, I will shortly be headed down south for to fix my in-law’s first ever Thanksgiving dinner.
I’m trying not to think about it too much.
I have a tendency of becoming a holiday nazi stressball if I over plan family occasions.
Which is why I am only making familiar recipes this year. No point in running myself ragged in someone else’s kitchen.
It’s a good thing I have some excellent seasonal fare up my sleeve.
This is my all-time showstopper.
Seriously. Share it with someone you love. You won’t regret it.
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake
1 3/4 c graham cracker/digestive biscuit crumbs
1/2 c melted butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
1 tin pureed pumpkin [not pumpkin pie mix, just plain old pumpkin]
32oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c granulated sugar
Heat oven to 325°F.
Grease 9-inch springform pan and wrap the bottom in foil [it’ll stop it from dripping butter all over your oven.
In small bowl, mix cracker crumbs and the melted butter.
Press crumb mixture in bottom of pan.
Bake crust 8 to 10 minutes or until set.
Cool 5 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate about 5 minutes or until completely cooled.
In another bowl, mix flour, spices, and pumpkin and set aside.
In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.
Gradually beat in the sugars until smooth.
On low speed, beat in 1 egg at a time just until blended. Gradually beat in pumpkin mixture until smooth.
Pour the filling in the tin, bake 1 hour 15 minutes or until set but the centre still jiggles a little bit.
Turn off the oven and leave it cracked open so it can cool slowly. Leave for at least 45 minutes.
Refrigerate to set – it’s best if you can leave it overnight though mine rarely survives that long.
When ready, run a knife around the pan edge to loosen, take away the springform sides and serve anyway you like.