Halwa is an Omani sweet dish that often accompanies Arabic coffee. Served especially during important occasions or when there are guests, it is the prime symbol of Omani hospitality.
You’ll appreciate this welcome offering even more when you realize that the cooking of halwa is no walk in the park. It entails long hours of stirring and mixing, and only skilled halwa makers can produce the perfect blend.
To make halwa, you need starch, nuts, saffron, cardamom, water, sugar, eggs, and rosewater. The ingredients are mixed in specific proportions, and only the halwa maker knows how much of each ingredient is needed.
Halwa is cooked in a large container called mirjnl, a special cauldron-like cooking pot made especially for halwa making.
Halwa is best cooked over wood fire and stirred for around two hours.
Once done, halwa can keep for up to four months without need for preservatives or even refrigeration.
Harees is a dish made of boiled or coarsely ground wheat cooked with meat. It is traditionally one of the first dishes served to break the fast during the Eid holidays.
Harees has a consistency similar to that of oatmeal.
To make harees, you need to soak the wheat overnight, and then boil it in water together with butter and meat. The mixture is then stirred and simmered until the right consistency is achieved. Any excess water must be removed to prevent the dish from becoming watery.
Once the harees is cooked, it can be served with a sprinkle of sugar or cinnamon on top.
Maqbous is a dish made of rice cooked with saffron to give it an appetizing hint of yellow color, and topped with spicy meat or seafood. The meat can be from chicken or lamb. It is cooked separately from the rice, but the two are served together on the same platter.
This is a heavy dish often eaten during the midday. Yes, it looks quite festive, but it is not one of those special Omani dishes reserved for special occasions only; maqbous is often eaten as part of everyday meals.
It is definitely one of the most popular dishes in Oman.
Shuwa is one of the most notable Omani dishes because, as a rule, it is only cooked on special occasions. Shuwa is served on the third and last day of Eid, and often, the whole village participates in the cooking process.
To prepare shuwa, a whole cow or goat is roasted for up to two days in an underground oven made by digging a hole in the ground.
But before this extended roasting process begins, the meat is first prepared by marinating it in various spices such as cumin, coriander, red pepper, turmeric, garlic, and vinegar, which all together impart a very distinct taste to the meat.
Once the marinating process is done, the meat is wrapped in dry palm or banana leaves, which will add a special aroma to the final product. The meat is then buried into the fiery pit.
After two long days of roasting, the shuwa is done, and it’s time for the village people to dig in!
To prepare lamb kabouli, you need to prepare the spice paste first. You need vinegar, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cardamom, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and garlic. Blend everything together until you form a thick paste. Keep the mixture in the fridge.
Now you have to prepare the meat. Brown the lamb pieces in a pot, the fill the pot with water and add cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom pods. Simmer the meat in this mixture for about 1.5 hours or until the meat falls away from the bones. Let the mixture cool, then remove the fat that floats to the surface.
Finally, you prepare the rice. But first, fry some onions until they turn golden. Add in some mashed garlic and some of the spice past, plus some rose water, saffron, and chickpeas. Set this aside.
Now fry the washed uncooked rice grains in a pot, and add some more spice paste in it. Add the lamb stock and wait for the liquid to boil. Turn to low heat and simmer until the rice is cooked. Add the cooked meat and the fried chickpeas mixture into the rice and mix everything together.
Now serve. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
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