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Mother’s Day sweets from the land of the Pharaohs

By Habeeb Salloum
May 11, 2017 - 1 comments

Why not treat mother to something new and unique on Mother’s Day? An afternoon tea with a sweet from the Nile Valley would, I am sure, please most mothers.

Umm Ali or ‘Mother of Ali’, a creamy pudding, is a dessert from Egypt. There are various legends attributed to the naming of this dish and the reason for its creation. One of the most common stories is that it had a somewhat unpleasant history.

It seems that Shajarat al-Durr, second wife of the 13th century Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, arranged to have the sultan’s first wife Umm Ali murdered. When the deed was done, to celebrate, she had a delicious dessert created by her cooks that she called ‘Umm Ali’. Made with milk, bread, and honey, the pudding was distributed throughout all of Egypt.

Another tale is that the dish dates back to the Ottoman era in Egypt, when legend has it that the sultan stopped in a poor village looking for something to eat and the village’s best cook, Umm Ali, made this dish. Using the best ingredients that she could find in the village, she created this pie. There are other legends that a British nurse, named O’Malley, during the British occupation of Egypt, invented the recipe.

The Pie by the Mother of Ali - Umm ‘Ali

Serves about 8

1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions

3/4 cup pine nuts

1 cup raisins, rinsed

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

300 ml sweetened condensed milk

1 cup water

2 cups half and half cream

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Unroll puff pastry sheets and place on greased baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and puff ed. Remove from oven and break into small pieces (about 1- to 2- inches) and place in large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, mix together the pine nuts, raisins and coconut then add to puff pastry pieces and gently mix well together. Pour into 9- x 13-inch greased casserole and set aside.

In a saucepan, add all the remaining ingredients and heat over medium until the butter melts and the liquid is heated through (not boiled), stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour evenly over the puff pastry mixture. Bake at 400° F uncovered for 15 minutes.

Serve warm on its own or with ice cream. 


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