After doing UAE last month, this month, for #menacookingclub challenge, our country assigned is Yemen.
As much as Syria is disturbing, the state of Yemen is no different. If you go through some pictures on the history of Yemen, you will realize how green and serene the whole place looks, with a lot of history resting in this country. They have been in a civil war status since last year and it is still going on without much respite. I hate to watch the news these day… With so much bloodshed, pain and fear in the already weak economy, things are looking bleak. All we can do is to make dua for our brethren there for peace soon, InShaAllah… Since we are dealing about their food today, it is said that they have more of Ottoman and Mughlai influences in their cooking, when compared to their neighboring countries. As far as I know, Yemen is famous here for two things – its honey and its Mandi. At the Global Village Yemeni stall, my kids go around taking honey samples from each of the vendors and finally by the time they are out, they are high on honey! 😀 Their honey is delicious, so I always make sure I get a couple of bottles to stock and give it to the kids when they feel like having a spoonful. Mandi is literally like national food over here. You can find Mandi outlets in every street and we also enjoy it at least once a month. Mandi is nothing but rice cooked in stock and layered with grilled or fried chicken, mutton or fish. It comes with a spicy tomato salsa like side, which goes so well with the rice. One portion is sufficient for two and it is quite filling yet not heavy.
For the challenge, we were given three choices: Adeni Jabeez for the starter, Red Bean Stew for the main and Khailat An-Nahl for the dessert. I had already decided to give this challenge a miss, since I am having guests at home who will leave by this weekend and I was cooking nothing more than our normal food. But as soon as I saw the mail for the challenge, my heart jumped up and down with happiness. Ask me why? I had already made the Khailat An-Nahl a couple of months ago, clicked it and it vanished within minutes from the set! 😀 So it was two pronged – I don’t miss the challenge and I didn’t have to cook! Sometimes, I am just too lucky, Alhamdulillah… 😉 That red bean stew is already on my long to-do list now, since I love red beans and love curries with tomato… 🙂
Khailat Al-Nahl literally means “bee hive”. The name comes from the shape of the bread. The design literally looks like the bee hive! These super soft cottony buns with a filling of cheese and drizzled in sugar syrup is something you cannot ignore for too long. I was totally worried whether the sugar syrup would make it too sweet to eat, but to my surprise, these buns soaked the syrup beautifully, stayed soft even at the end of the soaking and was just mildly sweet. I felt my bread was too big, but I was impatient and want to finish making it soon, but if you have patience, make the rounds smaller so that it resembles a bee hive. 😀 Nonetheless, as long as there was no compromise in the taste, I am not worried. The kids snatched and kept nibbling on the buns and it hardly took time to vanish off the plate. InShaAllah, I am already planning to make this once for Iftar during one of the weekends… 🙂
Khailat Al-Nahl ~ Sweetened Honeycomb Bread
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3 tbsp softened butter
- 5 triangles cheese cut into three peices
- 2 tbsp milk for brushing
- For sugar syrup:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
- Heat milk till lukewarm. Combine the sugar and yeast. Set aside for 15 minutes to froth.
- Add the ingredients from flour to butter and mix well. Add the yeast mixture and start kneading till it becomes a soft non-sticky dough.
- Set aside in a well oiled bowl till doubled in size, for an hour and a half.
- Deflate the dough and divide into 15 equal balls.
- Spread by hand into a round and place a piece of cheese in the center.
- Cover and shape like a round and place in the center. Repeat with all other balls similarly. Place six around the center ball and then the remaining 8 on the outside. Leave some space in between for the balls to expand. Allow the buns to rise for another one hour.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Brush milk over the buns. Bake them for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Switch off and add the honey and orange blossom water. Mix well. Keep syrup warm.
- As soon as the buns come out of the oven, pour the warm syrup all over and allow it to soak up the liquid. Serve warm.