I am so glad to say that I am hosting the MENA Cooking Challenge
this month, and the country for the month is Oman. I have gone to Oman only two times in my life - one to Salalah when Rasha was just a year and a half and the other in 2013 to Muscat to see my BFF after 15 years! Both the trips, unfortunately were too much in a hurry and I am waiting for a chance when HD will have at least a week to spare to go visit both the places separately - so in fact I should be getting two weeks of his time. Still waiting for my appointment... hehe...
The Sultanate of Oman is a monarchy, sharing its borders with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. I must say that this big nation is blessed by nature - surrounded with a lot of tall mountains and lush greenery, a long sea coast which is a beauty in itself. What I have felt from my mini trips to Oman has been the calm and serene lifestyle there. Muscat has more of a town feel but they have maintained the mountains and the serenity therein. Salalah is a total beauty - literally like a piece of my home state, Kerala in India! The greenery is lush and the climate is really similar! Not to mention, the history rich places that the country has to offer makes it a must visit for any tourist. I am hoping to be there for a longer time, to explore what the beautiful country has to offer.
As for as the food is concerned, the only food that I have really had is the Omani Halwa. It is widely available here at outlets that only sell this item. Though calorie laden, it is a treat in itself. So this opportunity was a good one to explore their cuisine. The recipes chosen were the Lamb Kabouli
for savory, Blended Vegetable Soup
for stew and Chaklama
for sweet. I decided to go for the rice and cooked it up during a weekend before Ramadan so that I would be ready with the post. The end result was some delicious rice that was wiped out, though I did get a little overcooked rice, which was really not something that deterred everybody from enjoying the meal! :)
Omani Mutton Kabouli
750 gm mutton, with bones
3 cups of water
1 large cinnamon stick
3/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 large onions, sliced
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
3 tbsp ghee
3 garlic, crushed
2 tbsp raisins
1 tin (400 gm) chickpeas, drained
A generous pinch saffron strands
1/3 cup (80 ml) rose water
2 chicken stock cubes
2 cups basmati rice, washed and drained
Salt to taste
For Omani spice paste:
2 cloves garlic
3/4 tbsp cumin seeds
3/4 tbsp coriander seeds
3/4 tbsp cardamom
3/4 tsp paprika powder
3/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp vinegar
Combine all the ingredients under "for Omani spice paste" and grind into a coarse paste. Set aside.
Put the mutton, along with mutton and whole spices with some salt into a pressure cooker. Cook on high flame for one whistle and switch off. Allow the pressure to go by itself. Drain the mutton into a bowl. Sieve the stock into another bowl and discard the whole spices. You should get around 4 cups of stock.
In a frying pan, add the 1/3 cup water along with onion and cook till the onion starts wilting and the water evaporates. Add in 2 tbsp ghee and saute the onion till it turns golden brown. Add the garlic, raisin, chickpeas, 1 tbsp from the ground paste, saffron and rose water and cook for another couple of minutes. Set aside.
In a large pot, add the stock, along with the remaining 1 tbsp ghee, the remaining spice mix, stock cubes and rice. Bring to boil stirring occasionally. Once it boils, reduce the flame to minimum and keep on closed lid till the rice is half done. Add in the mutton and mix well. Cook till the rice is completely done and the stock is absorbed.
Serve the rice topped with the chickpea onion mixture or mix it in, like I did!
Do check out what my other co-bloggers made for this challenge!