Showing posts with label UAE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UAE. Show all posts

Monday, May 18, 2015

Creamy Camel Milk Caramel

Cooked in the traditional long slow simmering way of dulce de leche or cajeta, this rich caramel is made with camel’s milk, said to be a healthy alternative to cow’s milk and better tolerated by folks with allergies. Here's one fact: It is deliciously creamy. 

I have been known to do a little happy dance when the farmer’s market in Houston still has some goat’s milk left because usually all of their bottles are spoken for, by regular customers. But sometimes I get lucky. And one of my favorite things about living in Singapore was the goat farm where I could go and buy the milk directly from the, ahem, producers. Homemade soft cheese made with goat’s milk is the best. When we moved to Dubai a couple of years ago, I discovered that one could buy camel’s milk in the grocery store, which intrigued me but somehow I never got around to buying any.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, at the first birthday celebration of Food e Mag dxb, an online magazine to which I’ve been a contributor (It’s gorgeous! Do go have a look!) I met a Dubai-based cookbook author who has a weekly show on local talk radio. I regularly listen to Suzanne Husseini  on 103.8 FM Thursday mornings from 10 a.m. – noon, because her topic is one of my favorites, food! Since the party was on a Wednesday evening, nosy parker that I am, I had to ask what the focus would be for the next day’s show. And because she’s a sweet person, Suzanne didn’t tell me to buzz off. She said it would be camel milk.

That's Suzanne in the hat, and me, on the right, with our Food e Mag dxb's editors Debbie Rogers and Ishita B Saha.. 

I learned so much from that show! Do you know that the farmer cannot separate the camels from their calves, as we do to cows, or they’ll stop producing milk? Also, the top producers only make between 5 and 20 liters a day vs. 40 liters from top producing cows. Camels are not mature enough to be mated until they are four years old and they carry their babies for more than 13 months before giving birth. Compare that to cows that can mate at 13-15 months old and have a gestation of nine and a half months. Or goats that can be bred at seven months old and that give birth after only five months! So, why would a farmer choose to raise camels for milk? It will come as no surprise to learn that camels are uniquely suited to the dry environment here and, while they don’t produce as much milk, they also don’t need as much water as other dairy animals would.

Camel milk doesn’t coagulate as easily as goat or cow milk so I decided that cheese would not be my first foray into using it. Instead, I decided to try making cajeta – that sticky sweet caramelized condensed milk usually made with goat’s milk. Or if bought in a can as dulce de leche, cow’s milk. Make this on a slow day when you are going to be home for a few hours anyway because it has to cook long and low. Mine took almost three hours.

Adapted from this recipe on Pati’s Mexican Table.

Ingredients – yields about 1 1/4 cups or 300ml creamy camel milk caramel
4 1/4 cups or 1 liter camel milk
3/4 cup or 175g demerara sugar
1  1/2 teaspoons  vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon flakey salt or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or to taste

Pour your sugar, vanilla and baking soda into a large thick-bottomed pot with the milk and heat gently over a medium flame, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.

Let it come to a slow boil and then turn it right down, or add a diffuser under the pot. I had other things going on at home that day and I was afraid the milk might scorch so I used the diffuser.

These are great for making sure the rice at the bottom of the pot doesn't burn either. 

If you are a thermometer-using type, I kept one in the pot and the temperature stayed between 165-180°F or 74-82°C.

Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the milk reduces by at least half and starts to turn a warm golden color.

Keep a closer eye on it now and stir more often. The camel milk caramel is done when a spoon pulled through the liquid shows the bottom of the pot for a few brief moments before running together again. It should be a deep golden color.

Put a metal teaspoon in a clean jar and pour the caramel in. Remove the spoon and seal tightly.

Still pourable

The caramel will thicken considerably when refrigerated and will keep for several months.

Cold, it's pretty stiff.
This is great over ice cream or spread on bread or simply eaten with a spoon. Tomorrow I'll be sharing an Egyptian cookie recipe using it as well.


Update: Here are the basbousa using the camel milk caramel!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Date Syrup Raisin Muffins #UAENationalDay #MuffinMonday

Date syrup or honey, called dibs in the UAE, is ubiquitous in the Middle East and north Africa, the land of dates.  Date syrup makes a great addition to baked sweet treats, adding a depth of flavor reminiscent of molasses.  It is made from the actual dates.  The sap that is tapped from certain date palms becomes palm sugar from a completely different process.

We first arrived in the UAE in the fall of 1987.  Abu Dhabi was a small city with green esplanades and manicured gardens, and a beautiful seaside promenade called the Corniche, surrounded by sandy desert inland as far as the eye could see.  The road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai was a small highway with roundabouts and wild camels that regularly ambled across, so caution was essential.  We would drive into the bigger, flashier city of Dubai for occasional shopping trips, passing by the newly emerging Emirates Golf Club right out in the middle of the desert.  The only green visible was the greens themselves, with their brave little flags marking the holes.  The fairways and bunkers were still all sand.  I can’t even imagine how challenging that course was to play!

Now verdant Emirates Golf Club is in the middle of the city, with Dubai grown out all around it and the highway between the cities boasts four lanes on each side and fences to restrain the camels.  Abu Dhabi too has grown and the Corniche of old has been relocated onto reclaimed land, extending Abu Dhabi island farther into the sea.  When we moved back here again last year, 23 years after we moved away, it was like straining to see through a very foggy window to a place where things looked familiar and yet, so very different.  New buildings, new roads, new beaches, all mixed up with sites that jog my memory.  I’ve spent the last year getting so very lost, even in old Dubai.  Every time I venture beyond my neighborhood it's an adventure!  But, fortunately, I like adventure.

Today the UAE celebrates its 42nd National Day and all weekend long there have been parties, decorated car parades and fireworks.  We are also celebrating the recent announcement that Expo 2020 will be held in Dubai, a real coup for the city and all of the Emirates.  So, for this Muffin Monday, I’ve baked a muffin with a bit of a local flavor, using date syrup, cardamom and raisins.

Happy birthday, UAE! 

1/2 cup or 110g sugar
2 cups or 250g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup or 120ml date syrup (molasses can be substituted)
1/2 cup or 120ml milk
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup or 120g butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup or 70g raisins

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.   Put liners in muffin cups or grease well with butter or non-stick spray.  Don’t you love my UAE liners?  I was so pleased to find them at a nearby store.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt.

I used fresh cardamom, cracking the little pods and then grinding the tiny seeds.
The scent is fabulous.  Doesn't it look like pepper?! 

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together your date syrup, melted butter, milk, and eggs.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold to combine.

Reserve a small handful of the raisins for popping on the top of each muffin and gently fold the rest into the batter.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Decorate with the reserved raisins.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove and cool further on a wire rack.


If you are fortunate enough to be in the UAE today, here's a link to a great article outlining the celebrations, where to go and what to do.  From The Gulf News.