Hello AM Women fans! For this Sweet-Tooth Saturday feature, I would like to highlight a lovely cooking enthusiast with a passion for food styling, and photography. Please welcome Najwa from Nano’s Kitchen! You can follow her vibrant grid of recipes @nanos_kitchen1 on Instagram!
This talented lady started Nano’s Kitchen in 2016 to share her daily cooking twists on Levantine cuisine. For those of you who do not know this region, it borders the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and includes Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Syria to name a few.
“Showing Love” Through her Passion to Family and Beyond!
Najwa admits that she did not think she would have much interest when she began sharing her culinary passion. However, she was pleasantly surprised at the growing positive reviews and feedback she received within four years of just doing what she loves! Her passion is motivated in part by her mom, who has taught her that cooking is not just ingredients and measurements, but a way of showing love to others! With a quick glance on her Instagram page, anyone can see how that love transcends into Najwa’s art of cooking and baking.
Najwa shares that her family has truly been her bedrock. Alongside her mom’s wise teachings, her dad has encouraged her to persistently share her talents. Moreover, she has been thankful for her husband for putting up with her initial stages of cooking, which ended up with a few burnt dinners on the table! And lastly, she is blessed to have her boys, her loyal fans, who love tasting her yummy creations. And her delicious, “Umm Ali” dessert is just one of them!
The Recipe’s Tragic Ancient Tale
For those wondering where the unique name for this dish came from, a tragic story simmers behind its creation. “Umm Ali,” a traditional Egyptian dessert, translates into “Ali’s mother” in Arabic. Some stories claim that Izz al-Din Aybak, the first Mamluk sultan of Egypt, had a second wife, Shajar al-Durr, who had arranged for his murder in order to take over his throne. After that, his first wife, Umm al-Mansur Ali, or “Umm Ali” decided to take revenge for her husband’s death and keep the throne to her son, al-Mansur Ali. She paid al-Durr’s maids to beat her to death with slippers! Soon after, she ordered the palace’s cooks to celebrate al-Durr’s death by creating a new and delicious dessert, which was a bread pudding that they made with dough, sweet milk, honey, and nuts. It was served to the common people along with one gold coin for each person. And that is how “Umm Ali” came to life!
Umm Ali Recipe
1 package of puff pastry
5 cups of full fat milk
1 cup of sugar (more or less to taste)
1 can of table cream (qeshta)
½ cup of whipped cream
2 tbsp of butter or ghee
½ cup of shredded almonds
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup of golden raisins
1 tbsp vanilla
Dash of cinnamon
*Note: The amount and variety of nuts are to taste and desire!
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Place thawed dough on a baking sheet. Poke with a fork to allow the dough to puff up and become crispy.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and puffed.
- Meanwhile, prepare your milk by adding vanilla and sugar
- Bring the milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes, then add the ghee or butter, then set aside.
- Prepare the dough by simply shredding it into an oven-safe casserole dish. Add the coconut, nuts, raisins, and cinnamon.
- Pour the milk mixture into the dough, and allow the dough to absorb the milk mixture.
- Mix the table cream with the whipping cream, and then pour this topping on the Umm Ali in the casserole dish.
- Bake on 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden.
- Garnish with your favorite nuts and enjoy warm. Sahtain!
Sneak Peak into Ramadan Goodies!
Currently, Najwa is working on more unique dessert creations for 2020 and 2021. We cannot wait to see, create, and taste them ourselves! In fact, as Ramadan approaches, we will be inviting Najwa’s culinary talent back for a special Ramadan feature known as “Date Arrangements,” so look out for that highlight closer to Ramadan! Make sure to follow her on Instagram @nanos_kitchen1 for more of her amazing recipes!