Eid al-Fitr is a special time. Not only is it the breaking of the fast at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, but it is also a time to give thanks to god and remember those less fortunate than yourselves. It is a time for generosity and forgiving. For Eid al-Fitr special dish is in order and I am pleased to bring you a speciality from Oman.
Halawah or halwa, meaning ‘sweet,’ is a generic name for many dishes throughout the world. You are no doubt familiar with some of the varieties yourself. The texture of the dish varies widely, from jelly-like to crumbly, depending on the ingredients. Whatever they are made from all of them have one thing in common, they are incredibly sweet and certainly not for the calorie-conscious!
In Oman this dish is made from dates and sugar, thickened with tapioca and flavoured with rose-water. It is something of a cottage industry with families keeping their recipes a closely guarded secret; passing them down from generation to generation. No self respecting Omani dessert table would be without at least one version of this sweet and tasty dish.
What could be better than making one for yourself and one for someone who is less fortunate, and let them join in the celebrations at this special time of the year?
What you need:
500g dates, pitted and finely chopped
100g cup sugar
3 tbs tapioca, dissolved in 60ml water
50g slivered and toasted almonds
2 tsp rosewater
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
how to make:
Bring the dates and water to the boil in a saucepan, stir frequently.
Continue to cook over medium/low heat for 1 minute while stirring, and add more water if required.
Add the sugar and cook for a few minutes (see note below) then stir in the dissolved tapioca.
Cook over low heat until the mixture thickens, stirring continuously.
Add the remaining ingredients (the nuts can be chopped and added now or reserved for decoration), and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continually.
Allow to cool for a few hours in a refrigerator.
Decorate with the nuts if not previously stirred into the mixture.
Note: If necessary pass the mixture through a sieve to remove any part of the dates which didn’t dissolve in cooking. Return to the pan before adding the tapioca mix.
The journey we are undertaking finds its roots far earlier than my childhood, when I helped my mother to bake. In fact we need to go back to 1873 when something occurred that would influence me as a child and throughout my adulthood. It took almost a hundred years for there to be any effect on my life, but that happened when as a child I was allowed to borrow some books from the adult section of the library. The first was ‘Around the World in Eighty Days.’The author, Jules Verne, was a great visionary in his writing, with prophecies of going to the moon, and travelling vast distances under the sea. But it was the journey of Phileas Fogg that first captured my imagination, inspired me to write, and gave me a yearning to travel which is still with me this day. I am not a professional cook or chef; I am an aircraft engineer by trade, as well as an author of crime fiction. From an early age I had an interest in the preparation and consumption of food (particularly the consumption!), often helping my mother bake. As I grew older, I tried making my own variations of recipes, sometimes with disastrous results, but on occasion something edible emerged. So it seemed the most obvious thing to do would be to combine my love of food with my desire to travel, and embark upon a journey of discovery of the foods and people of the world. Welcome to my ‘Around the World in Eighty Dishes.’ Glen R Stansfield. Author, biker and nutcase.