Sunday, January 31, 2010

Walima January Challenge Representing the Omani Cuisine

Oman is a 1,000-mile-long (1,700 km) coastal plain at the southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula lying on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The country is the size of Kansas.
A vast gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Al Hajar Mountains) and southeast coast, where the country's main cities are also located: the capital city Muscat, Matrah and Sur in the north, and Salalah in the south.

Oman's climate is hot and dry in the interior and humid along the coast. During past epochs Oman was covered by ocean. Fossilized shells exist in great numbers in areas of the desert away from the modern coastline.The peninsula of Musandam (Musandem), which has a strategic location on the Strait of Hormuz, is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates and is thus an exclave. The series of small towns known collectively as Dibba are the gateway to the Musandam peninsula on land and the fishing villages of Musandam by sea.
Boats may be hired at Khasab for trips into the Musandam peninsula by sea.Oman has another exclave, inside UAE territory, known as Madha. It is located halfway between the Musandam Peninsula and the rest of Oman. Belonging to Musandam governorate, it covers approximately 75 km2 (29 sq mi). The boundary was settled in 1969. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Fujairah road, barely 10 m (32.8 ft) away. Within the exclave is a UAE enclave called Nahwa, belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about 8 km (5 mi) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange.Government: Absolute monarchy. Stone AgeWattayah, located in the governorate of Muscat, is the oldest known human settlement in the area and dates back to the Stone Age, making it around 5,000 years old. Archaeological remains from different dates have been discovered here, the earliest representing the Stone Age, then the Heliocentric Age and finally, the Bronze Age. Findings have consisted of stone implements, animal bones, shells and fire hearths. The latter date back to 7615 BC and are the oldest signs of human settlement in the area.Other discoveries include hand-moulded pottery bearing distinguishing pre-Bronze Age marks, heavy flint implements, pointed tools and scrapers.On a mountain rock-face in the same district, animal drawings have been discovered. Similar drawings have also been found in the Wadi Sahtan and Wadi Bani Kharus areas of Rustaq. These drawings consist of human figures carrying weapons and being confronted by wild animals. Siwan in Haima is another Stone Age location and some of the archaeological finds have included arrowheads, knives, chisels and circular stones which may have been used to throw at animals.

Oman before IslamOman's Names Sumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan, a name thought to refer to Oman’s ancient copper mines. Mezoun is derived from the word muzn, which means abundant flowing water. The present-day name of the country, Oman, is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen. Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding and many present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral roots to other parts of Arabia.From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids. Achaemenids in the 6th century BC controlled and influenced the Oman peninsula. This was most likely exerted from a coastal center such as Sohar. By about 250 B.C. the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D. the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later.[5]
The arrival of Islam On the advent of
Islam, the religion reached Oman during the Islamic prophet Muhammad's lifetime. The conversion of Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who visited the region by the middle of the seventh century AD. The Omanis were among the first people to embrace Islam voluntarily In around 630 AD when the Muhammed sent his envoy Amr ibn Al As to meet Jaifar and ‘Abd - the joint rulers of Oman at that time - to invite them to accept the faith, in which he eventually succeeded.In accepting Islam, Oman became an Ibadhi state which is named after alkhoarej, ruled by an elected leader, the Imam. During the early years of the Islamic mission Oman played a major role in the Wars of Apostasy that occurred after the death of Muhammad and also took part in the great Islamic conquests by land and sea in Iraq, Persia and beyond. However, its most prominent role in this respect was through its extensive trading and seafaring activities in East Africa, particularly during the19th century, when it propagated Islam in many of East Africa’s coastal regions, and certain areas of Central Africa.Omanis also carried the message of Islam with them to China and the Asian ports.Oman was ruled by Umayyads between 661-750, Abbasids between 750-931, 932-933 and 934-967, Qarmatians between 931-932 and between 933-934, Buyids between 967-1053, Seljuks of Kirman between 1053-1154.

The Portuguese settlementThe
Portuguese occupied Muscat for a 140-year period 1508–1648, arriving a decade after Vasco da Gama discovered the seaway to India. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Europeans built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still remain.Rebellious tribes drove out the Portuguese, but were pushed out themselves about a century later 1741 by the leader of a Yemeni tribe leading a massive army from various other tribes, who began the current line of ruling sultans. A brief Persian invasion a few years later was the final time Oman would be ruled by a foreign power. Oman has been self governing ever since.[edit] Oman and East African EmpireThe Sultan's Palace buildings in Zanzibar which was once Oman's capital and residence of its Sultans.In the 1690s Saif bin Sultan, the imam of Oman, pressed down the East African coast. A major obstacle was Fort Jesus, housing the garrison of a Portuguese settlement at Mombasa. After a two-year siege, it fell to Saif in 1698.Thereafter the Omanis easily ejected the Portuguese from Zanzibar and from all other coastal regions north of Mozambique. Zanzibar was a valuable property as the main slave market of the east African coast, and became an increasingly important part of the Omani empire, a fact reflected by the decision of the greatest 19th century sultan of Oman, Sa'id ibn Sultan, to make it from 1837 his main place of residence. Sa'id built impressive palaces and gardens in Zanzibar.

Rivalry between his two sons was resolved, with the help of forceful British diplomacy, when one of them,
Majid, succeeded to Zanzibar and to the many regions claimed by the family on the East African coast. The other, Thuwaini, inherited Muscat and Oman.
Ted during celebrations, which consists of mashed rice flavoured with spices. Another popular festival meal is shuwa, which is meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for up to two days) in an underground clay oven. The meat becomes extremely tender and it is impregnated with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very distinct taste. Fish is often used in main dishes too, and the kingfish is a popular ingredient. Mashuai is a meal comprising whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice. The rukhal bread is a thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal, typically served with Omani honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner. Chicken, fish and mutton are regularly used in dishes
Although spices, herbs, onion, garlic and lime are liberally used in traditional Omani cuisine, unlike similar Asian food, it is not hot. Omani cuisine is also distinct from the indigenous foods of other Arab states of the Persian Gulf and even varies within the Sultanate's different regions. There are also significant differences in cuisine between different regions of Oman.

Our Challenge for this month representing the Omani Cuisine with two recipes

Lamb Kabouli

1 kg lamb legs, pieces with bones
9 cups water or 2¼ liters
3 small cinnamon sticks
1teaspoon whole cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppers
½ cup water or 125 ml, extra quantity
3 medium onions or 375 g, sliced
4 tablespoons ghee
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons raisins
1 tin canned chickpeas or 400 g, (dingo) drained(or 1 cup dried and soaked overnight)
4 tablespoons omani mixed spicess
½ teaspoon saffron filaments
½ cup rose water or 125 ml
3 cubes Mutton Bouillon (if you have lamb stock or chicken stock use 3 cups as part of the above water)
2½ cups basmati rice or 500 g, washed and drained

Put lamb pieces and water in a large pot, bring to boil and remove froth as it appears. Add the cinnamon sticks, and all whole spices. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1½ hours or until the meat becomes tender. Remove lamb pieces, put them in a bowl and set aside. Drain the stock and set aside.
Cook the extra water and onion in a large sauce pan with occasional stirring for 5 minutes or until water is steamed and the onions become tender. Add 2 tablespoons of the ghee (reserve 2 tablespoons) and stir for another 3 minutes or until onions become golden in color. Add garlic, raisins, dingo (chickpeas), 1 tablespoon of Omani mixed spices (reserve 3 tablespoons), saffron leaves and rose water, stir for 1 minutes then set aside

In a large pot put 4½ cups of drained stock; add more water if stock is not enough. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee, the remaining 3 tablespoons of Omani mixed spices, the Bouillon cubes and rice. Bring to boil with occasional stirring, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until rice is ½ cooked, add the boiled lamb pieces on top of the rice, cover and cook on low heat again for another 10-15 minutes or until rice is cooked.
Serve the rice and lamb in plate topped with the onion mixture

Omani Bizar A’Shuwa
2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbs (15 ml) cumin seeds
1 Tbs (15 ml) coriander seeds
1 Tbs (15 ml) cardamom seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground turmeric
About 2 Tbs (30 ml) distilled vinegar
Combine all ingredients in an electric food processor and process until a thick paste is formed, adding more vinegar if necessary. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 1/4 cup (60 ml).

Note: This is a famous meal in Oman, prepared during the holidays. Very strong on spices. I think if we reduce the spices to two tbsps we will get a balanced and flavourful dish

SAKO - a traditional caramelized tapioca sweet

1 3/4 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of sako (tapioca), soaked in 1 1/2 cups of water
for 1 hour
1 Tablespoon saffron
, soaked with the tapioca
1/2 cup of butter

1/8 - 1/4 cup of rose water
, depending on its strength and your tastes
1 Tablespoon of ground cardamom

1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

nuts, such as pistachio nuts, or walnuts
1. Put the sugar in a heavy sauce pan and brown over medium heat. Do not stir it, but rather gently shake the pan about every minute, until the sugar is a golden brown. Be careful not to over do it and burn the sugar.
2. Add the sako (tapioca) with its water and the rest of the ingredients along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, while stirring. The sugar will clump at the bottom of the pan at first, but will then gradually dissolve in the liquid.
3. Once it is boiling reduce heat to the lowest level. Continue cooking, lightly boiling, until the sako (tapioca) is cooked (i.e. clear and soft). The time required for this will depend on the size of the sako (tapioca), with smaller tapioca cooking faster than the larger beads. Add more water, if need. The final texture should be thick and jelly-like, yet still thin enough to pour into the serving dish.
4. Take off of the fire and spread in a glass/ceramic casserole dish/plate (or smaller individual-serving bowls). Top with chopped nuts. Best eaten at room temperature or slightly warm.

Note: this was my first time using tapioca, the sweetness of the caramelized sugar was too much to my taste. I added the fresh fruit to balance the sweetness..


Malar Gandhi said...

First time here, its a pleasure to discover your blog.

I enjoyed reading your anecdote' Good to know many facts and fascinating history of Oman, I am an anthropologist' this article really gives me lot of happiness.:)

I am a die hard fan of meaty food and biriyanis...this looks awesome, extraordinary...very positive it tasted great:)

tasteofbeirut said...

Hi Arlette
I am planning to make the meat dish; I too thought there was too much sugar in the dessert but I was curious about cooking with tapioca. I love the topping of fresh fruits you places on the pudding! So you do get good fruits even in the middle of your harsh winters!

Azure Islands Designs said...

Great facts and history Arlette...

Everything looks've been working hard!

MAG said...

Very interesting challenge. Sorry, I am not participating this month. Lack of ingredients :( and the weather is not helping me to tour the city looking for them. The dessert is very interesting, if u found it too sweet then it's definitely not for me :( I don't have a sweet tooth :) I love the presentation, very nice job!

sabah said...

Great job Arlette, they look amazing.
I couldn't participate on the challenge, because my camcorder is broken, I am posting right now my old recipes which I had in my PC.

Arlette said...

Hello Ladies,
thanks you so much for stopping by and leaving your sweet comments. I highly appreciate that.

Malar: I am glad you enjoyed te blog and the food , and if you like spicy food this dish one of them. Hope to see you again.

Joumana: Kifik , we do get nice fruit and veggies, but the variety in the winter is much less than the summer, and also the market is smaller for more tropical and excotic fruits. The slipper roads is a major issue. We are four hours from Toronto and same to Ottawa.

Heather: Hello my friend, how are you, I am so looking forward to the summer and the warm weather.

MAG: Sorry to hear about your weather challenge, Germany is cold and drivingg on icy roads is not fun, you need to be careful.
I will give you an advice, when I first came here I was afraid to drive my car and I took the bus for one week to do shopping, then I started making a list for my pantry and wait for a nice sunny day with clean roads and we go shopping sometimes for a whole month. You will get used to it.

Arlette said...

Hello Sabah: sorry to hear about your camera, left you a not about couple of camera options..

I know how bad it is... When my computer crashed this summer I lost so many photos and subject I was preparing for posting some of them came from Lebanon about special food in small villages.

Dibba Overnight Package said...

Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding and many present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral roots to other parts of Arabia.From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids.

Musandam Dibba said...

Musandam Dibba is a lovely place, i suggest everyone to come here on vocation peaceful place.

Khurram Baig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicholas Brody said...

Musandam Khasab is one of the best place where you enjoy lot of fun

Ali Dhow said...

Musandam Khasab is one of the beautiful places to visit along with your family.