Emirati girls put conventional food centre phase at Sheikh Zayed Competition

At a kitchen area in Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba, Habiba Al Mansouri races from time to put with each other a meal that showcases Emirati heritage.

She have to finish getting ready two kilograms of bzar (Emirati spice mixture), hen thereed (stew) and reqaq (common skinny bread) to post to a levels of competition at Sheikh Zayed Festival by 5pm. The pageant is just one of the country’s largest cultural situations.

The UAE is a melting pot of cuisines from all around the globe. With the abundance of international flavours, the cooking competitors aims to preserve the country’s genuine cuisine and recount its historical past.

Al Mansouri spreads a mattress on the ground and places bowls with spices, this kind of as ground coriander, cumin, black pepper, purple pepper, dried ginger, turmeric, cardamom and nutmeg.

A couple many years in the past, Al Mansouri had a Bedouin daily life in the desert. She powdered seeds with a hand grinder in the light-weight of an oil or kerosene lantern, then she heated the spice mix around a wooden fire. It was a laborious procedure that would consider up to 30 minutes. Now she works by using a mixer grinder that crushes the seeds in fewer than a moment and she then roasts them on a gasoline stove. In the earlier, her little ones, siblings and other spouse and children customers would aid her in the kitchen area. Now she has cooking assistants to lend a hand.

Habiba Al Mansouri arranges her serving tray with bzar, thereed, reqaq and old photographs to be presented at the Sheikh Zayed Festival competition. Nilanjana Gupta / The National

“When I was about 9 several years previous, my mom taught us how to thoroughly clean the household and cook food items,” she suggests.

“We applied to view her approaches of preparing salona [stew] and bread. We milked camels and sheep and turned clean milk into yoghurt. As we grew up, we knew anything and have been able to regulate our home.”

Al Mansouri sprinkles the spice mix on a simmering pot of chicken thereed, a classic stew that includes veggies, this kind of as potatoes, pumpkin and tomatoes.

“In those people instances, individuals failed to have numerous forms of seeds.”

“We had straightforward components which we turned into bzar. Machines did not exist, we applied a hand grinder. Today, thanks to Sheikh Khalifa [President of the UAE] and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed [Crown Prince], anything is obtainable.”

Bzar is an Emirati spice blend made with various seeds. Nilanjana Gupta / The National

As time passes, the clanking of utensils becomes far more regular. Al Mansouri heats a flat pan and on it, she spreads dough designed with flour and water. Inside minutes she readies a stack of about 20 slim breads.

She arranges a tray with the bzar, reqaq and thereed. She then places photos of women of all ages cooking in the era of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s Founding Father. “Our food stuff presentation really should replicate the country’s traditions,” she claims.

“It’s my pleasure to take part in pageant, simply because, thanks to God, our leaders have provided us with anything. We are inspired to participate and showcase our abilities and traditions to the planet. We need to defend the nation’s recipes for potential generations.”

The competitors was launched when this year’s competition began in November 2021 and it will operate right until the cultural party finishes on April 1. Emirati males and females are invited to cook dinner at the very least one particular of 8 common dishes, explained Shaima Faisal, the co-ordinator of the opposition. For just about every dish, the best 10 winners are provided funds prizes. The 1st winner requires household Dh10,000.

At one more Emirati house in Abu Dhabi’s Al Nahda space, Fatima Mahmoud prepares the same dishes. She was educated about the menu only a day just before. Each participant is asked to cook dinner the exact food in a day’s time so it’s less difficult for the jury to price their culinary expertise.

“My grandmother taught me how to put together the bzar in a conventional way,” she suggests.

I like the fragrance of mashmoom due to the fact it reminds me of our historical past

Fatima Mahmoud

“I use anise, coriander and cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, crimson pepper, black pepper and the yeshen [burnt leaves]. At present, ladies increase bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds. However, I have always stayed with my grandmother’s recipe.”

Soon after her bzar, thereed and reqaq are all set, Mahmoud decorates her serving tray with mashmoom or basil flowering plant.

“In the past, we only had palm trees, mashmoom and Al Sidr crops. I like the fragrance of mashmoom simply because it reminds me of our background,” the mom of 4 claims.

“We made use of to get ready harees, aseeda, khabsa, balaleet and luqaimat, but today younger Emiratis make almost everything from fruit cakes to cinnamon rolls.

“I persuade our children and grandchildren to find out how to make the traditional foods. These foods have plenty of rewards that quickly meals this sort of as burgers and pizzas do not provide.”

Up-to-date: February 14th 2022, 10:05 AM