Each region of the world has their versions of certain foods. Italian meatballs have their Oriental Kofta counterparts. And as for Latin famous rice and beans, in Egypt we have a Fava Bean and Rice recipe that is the same idea. Same goes for bread pudding, some think of it as a classical American dessert, but in Egypt it is a very popular dessert. We call it Omm Ali, or “Mother of Ali”, and differs from its American cousin, and is seasonal to Ramadan here in Egypt.
Where did this incredible dessert get its name from?
During the beginning of the Mamlouk era in Egypt (around 1250 A.D.), Shagarat El Dor, the widowed Sultana of Egypt, had quite a few enemies. Having re-married to Ezz El Din Aybak to validate her controversial position, she passed the rule on to him, as so she can remain in power through him.
After Aybak gained power of the throne, Shgarat El Dor was unable to control him anymore and had him murdered. This angered his first wife and son, Mansour Ali. Omm Ali (Ali’s Mother) ordered for Shajarat El Dor to be murdered by her maids, beaten to death with wooden clogs in her bath.
Legend has it that after the death of Shajarat El Dor, Omm Ali ordered the palace to make a sweet dessert to be distributed to the common people in celebration of her son’s new position on the throne. The palace put together what they could find from dried flat bread, coconut, nuts, rasins and milk, and baked the concoction. This new dessert was named Omm Ali, in reference to the Mother of Ali.
Regardless of its gruesome past, Om Ali is hands down my favorite original Egyptian dessert.
- 1 Liter milk
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- ½ cup crushed nuts (I use pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts)
- ¼ cup raisins (optional)
- 100 ml cooking cream or heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp sugar and few whole nuts for garnish
- 3 cups roughly crushed Rokak*
- 1 tsp cinnamon
*phylo dough or puff pastry could be used, but must be crisped first in the oven. Very thin pita bread could also be used if you cannot find any of the above, but be sure to separate the top and bottom halves and to bake them to harden.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
In a sauce pan, heat the milk adding in the sugar, cinnamon and coconut. We don’t want to boil the milk, just warm it until all the sugar is dissolved.
In a ceramic oven bowl or “Tagen”, add in the Rokak and the nuts. You can also make individual servings in ramekins. Pour the milk mixture over it.
Pour the cream on the top, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the garnish sugar and the rest of the nuts.
Place in the oven for about 20 mins, or until the mixture bubbles through the sides. Turn on the broiler for the last 5-10 mins to brown the top.
What is your favorite Ramadan inspired or Oriental dessert?