Tuesday 10 April 2007

khabeesa - an omani delight

سلطنة عُمان

Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey? has been hosting an event called Monthly Mingle. Each month she chooses a different theme such as Big On Barbecue, Beat The Heat or Sweet Love.
This month’s theme, Arabian Nights, really caught my eye since I have been investigating recipes from this region in my quest to cook my way around the world (34 countries posted, another 4 cooked but not up on the blog yet).

At Meeta’s advice to people more familiar with this cuisine, I decided to go for a country whose cuisine I knew nothing about and a dish I had never cooked before.

I settled on a breakfast dish from Oman called Khabeesa.

Khabeesa is essentially semolina or cream of wheat cooked into a porridge-like consistency and flavoured with saffron, rosewater and cardamom. It is floral and heady, and evoking all the images and sensory pleasures of Arabian Nights (or Arabian mornings).

I am pretty sure similar dishes using rice and wheat flours are made all over the Middle East (and Indian subcontinent for that matter), but this one is Omani.

For this recipe I got to use some of the best green cardamom I’ve ever smelt or tasted. This is also from Oman but was bought in Dubai as part of a culinary wedding gift from Sandra.

I served this dish as part of an Easter brunch buffet and I can tell you it works perfectly. Although the original recipe didn’t call for any garnishes (save melted butter), I decided to provide a bowl of chopped dried dates and fresh pomegranate seeds. The seeds in particular provided gorgeous colour to what could otherwise look like a bowl of gruel.

You could also use fresh rose petals or dried apricots, or even stewed fruits like quinces or apricots.
Another thing about this recipe was watching the beautiful saffron stain the white milk. I just had to snap a photo as this started to happen.

Based on a recipe from An Omani Kitchen. Serves 10.
1 cup of wheat semolina (cream of wheat)
1.5 litres (6 cups) of milk
½ cup sugar
4 bruised green cardamom pods
2 tablespoons of rosewater
½ teaspoon of saffron threads
250ml milk (1 cup), warmed for serving
1. Combine all of the ingredients (except the milk for serving) in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to the lowest level and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from heat and whisk through the warm serving milk to ensure the porridge has a soupy mash potato consistency. Add as much milk as needed for desired texture.
4. Serve warm. Decorate with fruits or petals, if desired.

I hope this dish adds something new and interesting to Meeta’s Monthly Mingle, as it certainly was easy to make and good to eat. Be sure to see what other Arabian treats were served up at the recap.

For those not familiar with Oman, here’s some interesting information from Wikipedia:
· Oman’s neighbours are the United Arab Emirates (northwest), Saudi Arabia (west), Yemen (southwest) and the Arabian Sea (south and east) and the Gulf of Oman (northeast).
· In ancient times Oman’s economy was based on copper, today it is rich in crude oils
· Throughout the centuries, Oman has been ruled by the Persians, Yemenites, Portuguese and Ottomans
· Their excellent skills at sailing saw Oman control colonies in Iran, Pakistan and Kenya and even the famous spice city of Zanzibar (Tanzania). They traded as far as Malaysia.
· Omani people are mostly Arabs, although there are significant numbers of Baloch (from Iran and Pakistan) and Swahili (from Zanzibar), as well as expats from India and Pakistan.
· Oman is the only Moslem country where Ibadhism is the dominate form of Islam. This is one of the earliest schools of Islam belief, developed 50 years after the Prophet Mohammed’s death. Oman is also home to other Islamic groups, such as the Sunni, while Hindus are the largest religious minority at 13% of the population.
· Arabic and English are the official languages and most signs appear in both languages
· Today Omani men wear an ankle-length robes (dishdasha) that buttons at the neck with a tassel.
· Women wear an abaya (long caftan) and a hijab (head scarf) but most do not cover their faces and hands.
· Oman is famous for khanjar knives, curved daggers worn as ceremonial dress.



  1. Anna! I loved this post. As I lived in the region for a huge part of my life reading your post brought back some great memories. Kudos to you for trying something totally new. Thank you for accepting the challenge! HUGS!

  2. Oh I miss that! We call it "Sugee" in my family and my mom usually puts flaked toasted almonds and sultanas on top. We also usually have it for dessert or for afternoon tea rather than breakfast (actually, when my mom makes it, I have it anytime of the day!). At times, we also take the "short cut" and use condensed milk instead of milk & sugar. I love cardamom! It's my facvourite spice. I love to have it in my tea. I once saw a product in a grocery store in Singapore's "Little India" - cardomom scented evaporated (or maybe it was condensed) milk, I think it was made in India. Thanks for this post and also the interesting background information.

  3. Sounds lovely (very fragrant) but the pomegranate seeds really finish it off!

  4. thanks for the introduction to the food of oman. I was reading a travel article about it the other day and it sounds amazing...was wondering what the food would be like

  5. Cardamom has to be one of the most brilliant spices ... recipe sounds divine.

  6. I love semolina pudding and this recipe will help me to overcome my fear of cardamom. I have it in my cupboard since six weeks and never had the guts to use it...
    BTW, I've just realized that you've linked to my site - thanks so much!!

  7. Anna,
    Great recipe. I must try this. Sounds yummy!
    Pomegranate seeds looks beautiful.

  8. Hay it is a great recipe... colourfull one. It looks lovey......

  9. oh hi! I'm from Dubai and I eat khabeesa every friday morning...and I'm sorry ti tell you that this is NOT definitely khabeesa this is an arabic pudding that we eat usually during Ramadan the month where muslims fast...this is how the real khabeesa looks like

  10. if you look at petite patisserie's link to khabeesa you can see it's much more golden in colour and less porridge-like. i guess i need to use less milk and cook it longer.


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