Thursday, March 4, 2010

Walima February Challenge - Representing the Saudi Cuisine

Saudi Arabia, the third-largest country in Asia, constitutes about four-fifths of the Arabian Peninsula. The other countries that share the peninsula—Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait—are all much smaller in area. A narrow plain runs along the Red Sea coast. The Hijaz Mountains (Al Hijaz) rise sharply from the sea. At least one-third of the total area is sandy desert. There are no lakes, and except for artesian wells (wells where water flows to the surface naturally) in the eastern oases, there are no rivers or streams where water flows.


The people of Saudi Arabia are descended from tribes of nomadic sheep and goat herders and maintain many of the traditions of their past. Traditional foods like dates, fatir (flat bread), arikah (bread from the southwestern part of the country), and hawayij (a spice blend) are still eaten by Saudis today, although most Saudis have settled in towns and cities and no longer follow the nomadic lifestyle. Saudi Arabia is also home to Mecca, the origin and spiritual center of Islam. The culture, as well as the laws of Saudi Arabia, is founded on Islamic principles, including the dietary restrictions against eating pork or drinking alcohol. In the 1930s, oil was discovered on the Arabian Peninsula. Income from oil has allowed Saudi Arabia to become modernized and to begin to develop stronger industries in other areas such as agriculture. Saudi Arabia now produces all of its own dairy products and most of its own vegetables. Many foreign workers are needed to maintain the new industries, and foreign foods as well as fast food chains are now available in Saudi Arabia. However, it is mostly the foreigners who eat those foods; most Saudis prefer traditional fare.


The people of Saudi Arabia are very traditional and eat the same foods they have eaten for centuries. The average meal of the Bedouin nomads who remain in Saudi Arabia is much simpler than that of the urban Saudis who make up the majority of Saudi Arabia's population today. However, the basic ingredients are the same: fava beans, wheat, rice, yogurt, dates, and chicken are staple foods for all Saudis. Saudi Arabia has over 18 million date palms that produce 600 million pounds of dates each year.

Saudis rank as the highest consumers of broiler chickens in the world, eating an average of 88.2 pounds of chicken per person per year. Saudis are strict Muslims and, following Islamic law, do not eat pork or drink alcohol. Lamb is traditionally served to honored guests and at holiday feasts. According to Islamic law, animals must be butchered in a particular way and blessed before they can be eaten, so Saudi Arabia is the world's largest importer of live sheep.

Camel (or sheep or goat) milk has long been the staple of the Bedouin diet, and dairy products are still favorites with all Saudis. Yogurt is eaten alone, used in sauces, and made into a drink called a lassi. Flat breads— fatir, a flat bread cooked on a curved metal pan over a fire, and kimaje, similar to pita—are the other mainstay of the nomadic diet that are eaten by all Saudis. These breads are used at every meal, in place of a fork or spoon, to scoop up other foods.

The Walima February Walima Challenge is brought to us by Noor from so join us to cook an Authentic new meal

Al Harrisah

For the Saudi Arabia sweet we will be making the popular sweet harrisah. This sweet is perfect served with Arabic coffee or tea.

2 cups flour
3 cups dates, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon ground cardamom

1.In a 9-inch skillet on medium heat add oil. Add flour, stirring until lightly brown. Remove from heat, add dates and cardamom, blend together.

2. Place into a servings platter and serve. Alternatively you can make into small ball


Before their was kabsa and other dishes in Saudi Arabia their was 'Al Matazeez'. Al Matazeez is a very old recipes that has meat, vegetables and homemade pasta in broth. This is very good served with fresh bread. Have fun and I can not wait to see how yours turns out. Enjoy your savory recipes from Saudi Arabia this month.

If your in an area where you can not find pumpkin some alternatives would be butternut squash or instead of 2 carrots add 5 carrots. Carrots and pumpkin have almost the same flavor when baked. Do not add can pumpkin. Also, you can use white flour instead of wheat but wheat is the traditional way.

500 grams lamb or beef meat pieces
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped finely
4 green chili's
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
2 dried lemons, cracked
2 bouillon beef cubes
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 small zucchinis, tops removed
1-1/2 cups pumpkin, cubed
1/2 cup green beans
2 carrots, sliced

2 cups wheat flour
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2-3/4 cup water

1.In a 4-quart pan add 1 tablespoon oil and onions, cook until tender. Add meat, salt, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and cumin. Cook until meat is browned on all sides. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Add chilis, dried lemons, and enough water to cover top by 4-5 inches. Bring to a full boil, add bouillon cubes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Adding more water if needed.

2.In a large bowl add flour, salt and 1 teaspoon oil. Add water small amounts at time enough to make a workable dough. Add 1 teaspoon oil into hands and cover outside of dough ball. Place in bowl, cover with towel and allow to sit in a warm place for 30 minutes.

3.Roll dough thinly and cut into small circles using a glass or into small squares using a pastry flute. Dough should be like pasta.

4.Add carrots and carefully start dropping dough pieces one at a time, making sure to them into meat mixture. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin and green beans. Cover and allow to simmer an additional 20 minutes, making sure vegetables are thoroughly cooked

Note: I added mushroom and green peppers as well, and instead of the homemade pasta, I made Burghul Pilaf. I am eating Lent food, and eat meat only on Sundays, the burghul served as a side dish and my dinner.

I recommend this meal... It's very similar to a Lebanese Dish called Mnazaleh or Masbahat Al Darwich, its a combination of vegetable and meat stew ratatouille


Ann said...

You made the Al-matazeez, I was trying to see if those dough like pasta was in the pics =) I am going to try this meat dish later this week, time does not permit now...

tasteofbeirut said...

I was looking at the picture thinking "I need to taste this!"
Looks delicious Arlette

Arlette said...

I made the stew long time ago, I was sick with the flue and didn't post it on time...its very good according to my husband, and its very similar to a lebanese dish I make all the time, and to him he didnt know the difference...

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Thta is a deliciously spicy dish! I love burghul.



Mamatkamal said...

I love this dish, nice flavour!

://: Heni ://: said...

I agree with Joumana! I need to taste as well! Unforunately I forgot to visit the site for a while now so I did not practice! =(--

Anonymous said...

As a food lover and cooking is really my passion!!I have tried different kinds of foods already but to be honest I haven't tried the famous sweet harrisah in Saudi Arabia and the Al Matazeez..I will try to cook this two foods now..Thanks for sharing the recipes..Nice blog!

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