Citizens, I was always fascinated by the heady and potent stories of the 1001 Nights when I was a child – and the descriptions of the perfumes used by the Sultans, Princesses and Wazirs of those stories lingers with me to this day like a whisper of rose on the wind.
As such, you can imagine my delight to discover this delectable recipe from Kuwait (the first on the blog!) that is the literal and spiritual descendant of those ancient stories and cuisines! The dessert from the desert is known as ‘gers ogaily’, (Arabic: قرص عقيلي) – a traditional cake made with eggs, flour, sugar, cardamom, and saffron. that is traditionally served with tea. This is indeed our recipe for today – but first, a discussion of the cuisine itself!
Kuwaiti cuisine is an infusion of Arabian, Persian, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisines. A prominent dish in Kuwaiti cuisine is machboos, a rice-based specialty usually prepared with basmati rice seasoned with spices, and chicken or mutton (pork is highly restricted due to religious reasons).
Seafood is a very significant part of the Kuwaiti diet, especially fish. Local favorites are hamour (grouper), which is typically served grilled, fried, or with biryani rice because of its texture and taste, Zbaidi, safi (rabbitfish), and sobaity (bream).
Kuwait’s traditional flatbread is called Iranian khubz. It is a large flatbread baked in a special oven and they often top it with sesame seeds. Numerous local bakeries dot the country, the bakers are mainly Iranians (hence the name of the bread Iranian khubuz). Bread is often served with mahyawa fish sauce.
There are many other available cuisines due to the international workforce in Kuwait.
Biryani, (Arabic: برياني) – a very common dish, which consists of heavily seasoned rice cooked with chicken or lamb. Originally from the Indian sub-continent.
Firga’a – (Arabic: فرقاعة)white rice cooked with tomatoes and potatoes and eggplant in the bottom of the pan.
Gabout (Arabic: قبوط), – stuffed flour dumplings in a thick meat stew.
Harees, (Arabic: هريس) – wheat cooked with meat then mashed, usually topped with cinnamon sugar.
Jireesh (Yireesh) (Arabic: يريش), – a mash of cooked spelt with chicken or lamb, tomatoes, and some spices.
Machboos, (Arabic: مجبوس) – a dish made with mutton, chicken, or fish accompanied over fragrant rice that has been cooked in chicken/mutton well spiced broth.
Mashkhool, (Arabic: مشخول) is white rice and at the bottom of the pot, there are rings of onion with turmeric and black pepper. and sometimes potatoes and eggplants is also added at the bottom of the pot.
Marabyan, (Arabic: مربين) a rice cooked with shrimp, Either the shrimp is fresh or dry.
Mahyawa (Arabic: مهياوة) – a tangy fish sauce.
Maglooba (Arabic: مقلوبة) – Rice cooked with meat and potatoes and eggplant.
Margoog, (Arabic: مرقوق) – vegetable stew, usually containing squash and eggplant, cooked with thin pieces of rolled out dough.
Mumawwash, (Arabic: مموش) – rice cooked with green lentils and can be topped with dry shrimp.
Muaddas, (Arabic: معدس) Rice cooked with red lentils and can be topped with dry shrimp.
Mutabbaq samak, (Arabic: مطبق سمك) – fish served over rice. Rice is cooked in well-spiced fish stock.
Quzi, (Arabic: قوزي) – Kuwaiti dish consisting of a roasted lamb stuffed with rice, meat, eggs, and other ingredients.
Elba (Arabic: ألبة) Kuwaiti milk pudding with saffron and cardamom.
Leben (Arabic: لبن) (yogurt milk)
Dried lime tea
different varieties of Arabic tea
This particular recipe is redolent of the perfumes of rare spices and flowers – it is delicious served with tea in the Kuwaiti fashion and strikes an unusual but delicious flavor note from the tahini in the icing. It has my own touches and the rose in the center is my own idiosyncrasy – omit it if you so prefer.
This is by no means a difficult recipe, Citizens – but it is one guaranteed to spark compliments about how incredible your cooking skills are as the aroma of the East permeates your table and house!
Battle on – the Generalissimo