Emirati women put traditional food centre stage at Sheikh Zayed Festival

Emirati women put traditional food centre stage at Sheikh Zayed Festival

At a kitchen in Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba, Habiba Al Mansouri races in opposition to time to place collectively a meal that showcases Emirati heritage.

She must finish getting ready two kilograms of bzar (Emirati spice mixture), rooster thereed (stew) and reqaq (regular skinny bread) to submit to a competition at Sheikh Zayed Competition by 5pm. The competition is just one of the country’s premier cultural situations.

The UAE is a melting pot of cuisines from all about the world. With the abundance of international flavours, the cooking competitors aims to maintain the country’s genuine delicacies and recount its historical past.

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

A few a long time ago, Al Mansouri experienced a Bedouin existence 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 about a wood hearth. It was a laborious system that would get up to 30 minutes. Now she utilizes a mixer grinder that crushes the seeds in a lot less than a moment and she then roasts them on a fuel stove. In the previous, her little ones, siblings and other household associates would help her in the kitchen. 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 yrs aged, my mom taught us how to thoroughly clean the home and prepare dinner food stuff,” she says.

“We used to observe her methods of preparing salona [stew] and bread. We milked camels and sheep and turned fresh new milk into yoghurt. As we grew up, we understood almost everything and ended up ready to take care of our family.”

Al Mansouri sprinkles the spice blend on a simmering pot of rooster thereed, a regular stew that incorporates veggies, this sort of as potatoes, pumpkin and tomatoes.

“In individuals periods, people failed to have quite a few forms of seeds.”

“We experienced easy elements which we turned into bzar. Equipment did not exist, we made use of a hand grinder. Nowadays, thanks to Sheikh Khalifa [President of the UAE] and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed [Crown Prince], all the things is obtainable.”

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

As time passes, the clanking of utensils turns into extra repeated. Al Mansouri heats a flat pan and on it, she spreads dough produced with flour and water. Within minutes she readies a stack of about 20 slim breads.

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

“It’s my enjoyment to participate in festival, due to the fact, many thanks to God, our leaders have delivered us with everything. We are inspired to participate and showcase our skills and traditions to the environment. We ought to safeguard the nation’s recipes for foreseeable future generations.”

The opposition was released when this year’s pageant began in November 2021 and it will run right until the cultural occasion finishes on April 1. Emirati men and females are invited to prepare dinner at the very least one particular of 8 regular dishes, mentioned Shaima Faisal, the co-ordinator of the level of competition. For each individual dish, the prime 10 winners are provided hard cash prizes. The initial winner will take household Dh10,000.

At yet another Emirati house in Abu Dhabi’s Al Nahda region, Fatima Mahmoud prepares the similar dishes. She was informed about the menu only a working day right before. Each and every participant is asked to cook the same food in a day’s time so it’s less complicated for the jury to level their culinary competencies.

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

I like the fragrance of mashmoom since it reminds me of our record

Fatima Mahmoud

“I use anise, coriander and cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, purple pepper, black pepper and the yeshen [burnt leaves]. At present, females insert bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds. On the other hand, I have often stayed with my grandmother’s recipe.”

Just after her bzar, thereed and reqaq are ready, Mahmoud decorates her serving tray with mashmoom or basil flowering plant.

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

“We utilized to prepare harees, aseeda, khabsa, balaleet and luqaimat, but these days young Emiratis make almost everything from fruit cakes to cinnamon rolls.

“I motivate our kids and grandchildren to understand how to make the traditional foods. People meals have tons of benefits that rapidly foodstuff this sort of as burgers and pizzas do not offer.”

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