Om Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding)
I don’t do a lot of desserts on this podcast, mainly because, well, I don’t know why. I just don’t. Maybe it’s the hassle of baking, maybe it’s that I prefer savory dishes, maybe it’s that desserts aren’t THAT different from place to place? Maybe it’s something deep in my psyche.
Well, I’m bucking the trend today! Om Ali (sometimes spelled Umm Ali) is an Egyptian bread pudding. The name means “Ali’s Mom” and refers to the wife of an Egyptian sultan back in the middle ages. The story is that after the sultan died, Om Ali got into a fight with another of his wives, had her killed, and then gave this succulent dessert to the people of Egypt to celebrate. A weird story, if you ask me. She doesn’t have a name? Just “Ali’s Mom”?
Anyway, the story is awkward, but the dessert is delicious. In its most basic form, it’s layered phyllo dough, crisped in an oven, and then soaked in sweetened milk to make a bread pudding, and then studded with nuts, raisins and such.
That can be delicious, but it’s also possible to make it particularly awesome by adding a couple of small steps.
I’m basing this recipe on the recipe here: http://cleobuttera.com/middle-eastern/best-ever-om-ali-egyptian-bread-pudding/ — When Tasbih claimed that this was “best ever”, I took her at her word.
I’ve changed hers up a little bit, mainly because a) I like the warmth that a little cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla provide and b) I don’t have access to country-style clotted cream, so I thickened up the milk sauce with some extra cream.
There are plenty of other recipes that say those two changes are OK, so I’m comfortable with not being yelled at.
Anyway, try this. It’s so freaking delicious. So so so good.
Thanks to Tasbih at cleobuttera.com for the brilliant idea of pre-cooking the puff pastry!
We go to Luxor Egypt, ancient capital of the New Kingdom, to visit the great temples of Karnak and Luxor. We discuss Hatshepsut: a fascinating woman who became king. We also talk temple-side fries! Special thanks to Dominic Perry and Lantern Jack.
Most food on Santorini requires the local volcanic soil or crystal blue waters to make it special. While we could make tomatokeftedes, the deep-fried fritters fueled by the phenomenal local tomatoes, so perfect in the volcanic soil, you can’t get Santorini tomatoes where you are, so it would be a pale imitation at best.
Therefore, we’re going with something simple, that you can make with ingredients from your local supermarket. Dakos is translated as “bread salad” but I prefer to think of it as a cheesy Greek bruschetta.
Officially, these are made with barley rusks, which are twice-cooked bread rounds that are approximately as hard as rock. By letting them soak up the tomato juice and olive oil of the marinade, you make the rusks edible. So that’s one way of going, but my version is a pansy American attempt, mainly because I can’t get barley rusks anywhere and I live in a major metropolitan area in the 21st century: I’m guessing if I can’t get ‘em, you can’t get ‘em either.
So yes, this is absolutely not actual dakos. But you know what? It’s amazing. My new favorite thing. It made me love feta for the first time in my life. Eat. It.
NB: The picture does NOT match the recipe. The picture is of ACTUAL dakos, courtesy of wikipedia user Frente. I only remember to take a picture of what I'm cooking something like 20% of the time, which leaves me frantically scrambling and searching the internet like a college freshman. Anyway, you'll note the barley rusk on this picture. Frente also used olives, which you are welcome and encouraged to do - I am weird (as noted in Episode 3: The Statue of Zeus): I don't like olives though I love olive oil. But do as you will.