How to make 'Om Ali' - an Egyptian Bread Pudding

Om Ali
Om Ali

What is Om Ali ?

Om Ali (aka Um Ali or Umm Ali) is an Egyptian, Middle Eastern sweet and rich dessert, served most commonly during Eid ul-Fitr (a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan). This raisin cake, made of puff pastry combined with nuts, raisins and coconut, covered in hot sweetened milk and cream, is a great comfort food. Eat it with a spoon !

Om Ali Legend

According to a legend, was Om Ali the first wife of the Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. In Egypt, women were not allowed to rule, but were permitted to be guardians to their sons who could become Sultan when they came of age. When the sultan died, his second wife had a dispute with Om Ali over whose son would be the successor to the Sultan. The second wife was heavily guarded making it difficult for Om Ali to get rid of her.

Om Ali hatched a plot bribing the second wife’s handmaids. While the second wife went to the ham am for a bath, she was beaten to death, by slippers and by her own handmaids ! To celebrate her death, Om Ali made this dessert and distributed it among the people of the land.

Another story involves again a sultan, who started to feel puckish during a hunting trip in the Nile delta. The hunting party stopped for food at a poor village along the way. The locals called upon their best cook, Om Ali, to feed the hungry monarch. She filled a large pan with the little they had – scrapings of stale wheat flakes with bits of nuts – and put it in the oven together with milk and sugar. It was so well received that the sultan went back again and thus the dessert became known by its creator.

Tales abound, but the most popular is the rather gruesome one, I’m afraid.

Recipe

As with most local dishes, there are a variety of ways to make it. Here is a basic recipe with ingredients that can be found in your store.

Serves 8

Ingredients

5 sheets Pastry
5 cups Milk
2 tbsp Butter
3 tbsp Double Cream
1/4 cup Hazelnuts 
1/2 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Almonds
Sugar to taste 

Directions
Put pastry on a baking sheet and bake in a medium-high heat oven until golden and crispy.

In a small baking sheet put hazelnut and almonds and broil in oven for 4 minutes. Remove, peel or blanch and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a non-stick deep pan heat milk and sugar until boiling and sugar is dissolved (milk must taste a little sweeter than what you like).

Cut pastry with your hands into medium pieces and put in a large tagen (casserole). Add hazelnut, almonds and raisins and cover with milk to fill 2/3 of the tagen.

Heat oven to medium-high heat (200 C). Place tagen in oven for 15 minutes until pastry starts to absorb milk and its volume increases.

Remove from oven and spread butter and cream on top. Put back in oven and bake for 20 minutes more. If top doesn’t turn golden brown, broil for 2 minutes. Serve hot.

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