14 July, 2011

Mmmmm, Umm Ali!

Another recipe found everywhere here...and slightly reminiscent of bread pudding back home!  This one is a wonderfully delicious and sweet desert, combining the most rich flavors and surrounded by warmth.  Surely to become a comfort food for you and your kids. 

It's called...Umm Ali, meaning Ali's Mother.  The story of Umm Ali is as follows:

**Umm 'Ali is said to have been invented during the reign of the Ottoman Turks. One day while hunting in the Nile delta, the sultan developed a ravenous appetite and stopped in a small village. The peasants wished to please the sultan, so the best cook of the village, Umm 'Ali , pulled out a special pan and filled it with the only ingredients she had around: some dried wheat flakes (perhaps stale broken pieces of gullash, a phyllo-like pastry), sultanas, nuts, and coconut. She covered it with sugar and milk and put it into the village's oven. It was so good that the sultan asked for Umm 'Ali 's dessert the next time he visited.**

You'll find Umm Ali made either firm or sloppy style...basically more baked and set, or still swimming in the delightful sweet creamy milk.  Basically, bake it the full 15 minutes or stop when it's the consistency you'd like.


 Recipe for Umm Ali

17 oz. phyllo/puff pastry frozen (However, baked croissants broken up is actually widely seen!)
3 C. milk (not low-fat)
1 C. sugar
1 C. whipping cream
2 TBS. unsalted butter 
1/2 C. chopped pistachios
1/2 C. sliced almonds
1/2 - 3/4 C. coconut flakes (to taste)
1/4 - 1/2 C. sultana raisins (golden)
2 tsp. orange flower water (if you can find it) OR 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 450º F.
2.  Unroll puff pastry sheets and place on greased baking sheets.  Bake until dry and crisp, but not brown...approximately 45 seconds each. When finished with puff pastry, turn oven down to 350ºF. 
**skip steps 1 & 2 if using already baked croissants**
3.  Break puff pastry into 1-2in. pieces.  Add the nuts and coconut and mix well.  Reserving 2T. of raisins, mix the rest of the almonds in as well.  Place in a 9x12 baking dish.
4.  Combine milk, sugar and butter in a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts.  Remove from heat and mix in cream and orange flower water or vanilla.  Pour mixture over phyllo mixture.
5.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and reserved raisins.
6.  Bake until pudding puffs and sets, about 15-20min., or to desired consistency...set or sloppy!

So, there you go.  Another treasure from the Arab world.  I hope you enjoy!

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