It’s finally starting to feel like May. The weather is warming up. The city is turning black and white for the upcoming Indy 500 race. I’m looking forward to a three-day Memorial Day weekend next week (my kids get a four-day weekend!). There’s only a few weeks left of the school year (I know, some kids are lucky enough to already be out). I’m doing well at my job this month. So, things are kind of looking up right now. And you know the best way to celebrate that: Omani food.
|It was good when it was first made, but as it sat, its flavor changed a little.|
I started today’s cooking adventure with some Maldouf, or Date Chapati. Chapati is a type of bread that comes from Southeast Asia but this one has a distinctive Omani take on it. First I had to get my dates ready. I bought pitted dried dates and placed 12 chopped dates (about ½ c or so) in a small bowl and covered it with boiling water, letting it soak until they were soft (I let it sit for about an hour). Then I took my pestle and mashed them before putting the mashed dates and water into my blender. Once I pureed it, I set this aside for later. Now came time for actually making the bread. I mixed together 2 ¼ c of all-purpose flour and 1 tsp salt. Then I stirred in an egg and ¼ c of ghee and mixed it all together until it was kind of crumbly. I slowly poured in my date puree into the dough mixture (it should yield about 2/3 c), stirring and kneading until it started to become smoother and more elastic. Once I got the dough to look like it should, I divided it into 12 small sections. I kneaded each section again and rolled them into small balls, covering them with a towel and letting them rest for another hour. On my floured pastry mat, I rolled out each ball and brushed the surface with ghee. I folded the bottom and top edges to make a straight edge, making it into a rectangle before folding it again to make more of a square. Then I rolled it out again and brushed it with ghee again. When I did all 12 balls, I fried it in a skillet, ghee side down until it was browned. I brushed more ghee on top before flipping it. It should start to puff up a little, but mine didn’t puff up that much. However, I was surprised that I couldn’t really taste the date flavor at all. If anything, it made it just a bit sweet. Coupled with the ghee, I quite liked these.
|No complaints from anyone here.|
For the main dish today, I made Chicken Kabouli (Muscat Style). I used chicken drumsticks (at the request of my son who was shopping with me – whatever it takes for him to eat it). I put my chicken in water and brought it to a boil. Then I added in a few small cinnamon sticks, a few whole cardamom pods, whole cloves, some black pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, and a chicken stock cube. I turned down my heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Then I removed the chicken and set it off to the side. I drained off some of the stock and saved it. In a smaller pot, I put 3 c of the stock back into the pot along with 1 ½ c of rice and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Then I took it off the heat and set it off to the side. Back in my large pot, I melted some ghee and sautéed my chickpeas and raisins for a couple of minutes before removing them. At this time, I added my chicken back into the large pot along with the boiled rice and the chickpeas/raisin mixture, and then sprinkling saffron that has been soaking in rosewater (I cut my rosewater with water 1:4 because I think rosewater smells like perfume and is overly strong to me). I poured in a little more of the broth (along with some more cumin and black pepper) and let it cook for another 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked through and the chicken has heated up again. I thought this was really good. The chicken practically fell off the bone. I think I would’ve preferred to make this with thighs instead of drumsticks. But at least the kids ate it. I was actually worried that the sweet spices were going to be overpowering, but surprisingly it wasn’t.
|Custardy. Almondy. I'm happy with it.|
It’s been a while since I’ve made a dessert or a drink. So today, I’m doing both. For the dessert, I made Omani Pudding. I combined a can of sweetened condensed milk, 7 eggs, a cup of milk, 2 tsps of vanilla powder (I bought a powdered vanilla dip mix), a stick of butter chopped into smaller pieces, and some lemon zest. After mixing this until it was consistent, I stirred this over low heat until it started to thicken. I took a half cup of slivered almonds, ground them, and added them to the pot to thicken it. I removed them from the heat and poured it into a glass bowl, letting it cool a bit before placing it in the refrigerator to cool completely. I couldn’t find pistachios where I was shopping, so I left it out for this. I did garnish this some sliced almonds. I actually had my heat up too high and ended up cooking the eggs a bit. And the ground almonds made it a little rougher than what I was expecting. But it was rather tasty. A little goes a long way, though.
|If this was easier to make, I'd make this every day.|
For my drink, I served Spiced Omani Milk Tea. Over a medium-high heat, I toasted some cardamom pods, whole cloves, and cinnamon stick for about a minute. Then I added in my thinly sliced piece of ginger and 2 ½ c of water, bringing it to a boil. Once it came to a boil, I immediately turned my heat down until it began to simmer, stirring in a ½ c of sweetened condensed milk and adding in my 3 tea bags. I used English breakfast black tea. After I let this simmer for about a minute with the tea bags, I removed the pot from the heat and stirred in the ground cardamom and let it steep for a few minutes. I poured this through some cheesecloth to catch all of the solids. This, my friends, was so delicious that I wish I had made more. I loved everything about this. And it was a hit with everyone. Clearly the winner of the day.
|Overall, this was a good meal.|
If there is one thing that I hate, it’s wasting food. Perhaps it stems from the times when money was hard to come by. I actually panic a little when I’ve burnt some food or dropped it. While making the chicken kabouli, I dumped part of the cooked rice on the floor as I was trying to pour it into the pot. Good thing it was the last thing I was making because I spent the rest of the time stepping on pieces of rice that I thought I had swept up. By the way, cooked rice doesn’t sweep all that well. In fact, it feels pretty gross when you find a missed one with your bare foot. So, I had to make a little bit more rice in order to finish the dish. I’m just glad that I still had rice and broth left. And I was grateful that I did. One thing people don’t realize about living on an extreme budget is that when you have so little food and so little money, you can’t afford to mess up a recipe. You can’t afford a do-over.
Up next: Pakistan