Sunday, 6 July 2008

Umm Ali

Umm Ali means “the mother of Ali”. I don’t who she was but she certainly knew how to create a good dessert!

I first had this dessert in a hotel in Doha, the capital of Qatar. It was one of those events that, even at the time, I realised was a key moment in my life – I had discovered something too delicious for words!

Since then, I have scoured many recipes and websites for a recipe to replicate the dish. It seems to be a recipe that many countries in the Middle East have different versions of; some use filo pastry, some use bread but I knew the one I’d eaten was puff pastry.

So, there I was – bereft of a decent Umm Ali recipe – when I lamented my hardship to Jasmin, a colleague of mine. Jasmin grew up in Dubai and knows all about Umm Ali so felt my pain. About an hour later the recipe for authentic Umm Ali arrived in my inbox! Jasmin knew someone, who knew a chef and thus the recipe was found. Further proof that what matters in this world is who you know! Thanks Jasmin!

I tweaked the recipe slightly so it replicated the version I ate in Doha. It’s the sort of recipe that tolerates a bit of variation and you can pick the nuts you prefer – as long as you chop them and keep the quantities the same, it will work. As you know by now I am a vanilla freak so also added a vanilla pod, which probably isn’t authentic at all.

Unusually, you cook the puff pastry and then chop it up. I guess this is why it’s called “puff” pastry:

Add some nuts and raisins:

Then smother in cream, milk and sugar...are you starting to realise why this will be delicious?

Just for good measure, add some whipped cream on top:

Bake in the oven, serve up and you have the ultimate comfort pud:

A spoonful of creamy, nutty, pastry goodness. If you can tear your eyes away from what’s on the spoon, you will see my red camera reflected in the metal:

Don’t worry, this soon got eaten...

250g baked and crushed puff pastry (I used ready made)
50g sliced almonds, plus some extra for sprinkling on top
30g chopped pistachios
30g chopped pine nuts or raisins/sultanas
600ml whipping cream
200ml milk
50g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod

How to make:

- Bake the puff pastry according to the instructions on the packet. Mine required 15-20 minutes at 220°C/fan oven 200°C/425°F/Gas mark 7.
- Cut the cooked puff pastry into small squares and place in a 20cm ovenproof dish. My dish was a ceramic lasagne dish and the sides were fluted so that the top of the dish was bigger. If your dish has straight sides you might want to use one slightly bigger than 20cm.
- Scatter over the nuts and raisins.
- Preheat the oven to 250°C/fan oven 230°C/500°F/Gas mark 10.
- Put 300ml of the whipping cream, the milk, sugar and vanilla pod (cut and scrape the seeds out) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as it starts to boil, remove from the heat and pour, through a sieve, over the pastry in the bowl. Tidy up the pastry so that it is all covered by the cream – when you pour it over, it gets disturbed.
- Leave to soak for 5 minutes.
- Whip the remaining cream (300ml) and spoon onto the creamy pastry mix. I piped it which proved utterly pointless as it collapses in the heat of the oven!
- Bake until golden brown – this will take approximately 15 minutes.
- Scatter some chopped nuts over the top. I used almonds.
- Allow to cool slightly before serving.
- It is nice to have some additional cream to pour over – this is optional.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.


Dee said...

Anything with puff pastry is my friend, and I have all the ingredients at hand. Yay!
I've never heard of this, but I can imagine how scrumptious it must taste.
Lovely recipe :)

I've linked you, hope you don't mind.

Cakelaw said...

This looks delicious - it is new to me, but it sounds great.

trashalou said...

Hahahaa! When pregnant with my first bebe (bump named Vlad) a friend who had spent time in Saudi used to refer to me as UmmmVlad. Thanks for the memory.

Loving your site and am off to blogroll it right now so can come back and drool properly later.

Lore said...

Wonderful! The "Allow to cool" parte seens pretty hard when looking at these photos :D

Serene said...

Hi CC.

Thank you ever so much for sharing this; your recipe and photos helped a lot. Tried it first time today, turned out beautiful, yummy & scrumptious, immense comfort food.

Keep up your cake crusading and photo 'tutorial'.

Thanks again.

Iman said...

Yummy I can't wait to make this, I always heard about it but never tasted it.What kind of puff pastry did you use, the block square one? Do you have to roll it out first before you bake it?


The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Iman

I always use ready made puff pastry and the block would work fine as long as you remember to roll it out thinner. I use the ready made sheets of puff pastry as it saves having to do any work!
In most supermarkets, you will find the ready rolled next to the block.
I do recommend that you always ensure the puff pastry is made with butter though.
Hope this helps!

Iman said...

Oh yeah that helped thanks ;-)..just a few more questions ..these ready rolled sheets how many of them do i have to use? and do I pile them one on top of the other?

Sorry for coming across as dense; the recipe looks really easy..just stuck on this part.I've only ever used the block ones which i then had to roll.

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Iman

Bake the sheets individually - don't pile them up.

I've just checked the Jus-Rol website; their pre-rolled sheets come in 425g packets, so you'll need just over half the pack

Hope this helps

Iman said...


Thanks a lot ..It's all clear in my head now.I'll bake it sometime soon and I'll definitely let you know how it went. Cheers! ;-)

FireintheBreeze (Brittany) said...

Hi there, I've been exploring your blog - looking through all the recipe :)

This looks really scrumptious, all my favourite ingredients, my favourite style of dessert (one bowl food) just perfect.

Hina Firdous said...

Hi there, i just wanted to thank u for the wonderful umm ali's my daughter's favourite dessert.......and she is very happy that she can get it at home now......thank you.