Three years ago I was in Dubai filming a food/travel TV show for Abu Dhabi TV with the wonderful Tariq al-Mehyas. And the first thing I did when I got there was to spend 3 fabulous days in Sharjah as the guest of the brilliant Sheikha Bodour al-Qasimi who organised for me to cook with, or to be more accurate watch a group of lovely Emirati ladies cook Emirati dishes including the scrumptious lgeimat (saffron-flavoured fritters served drizzled with date syrup) you see in the picture above in the Sharjah Heritage House.
It has been an exceptionally busy month: my residency at Leighton House, the offal and baby goat dinner, a huge dinner for thirty Italian art collectors and cookery demonstrations at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Busy but fun, especially my spectacular breakfast with the lovely ladies at the craft centre in Sharjah. A lavish spread made up of various dishes the ladies had prepared at home except for Moza, the lady in pink, who baked khameer (a saffron-flavoured brioche-like flat bread) in front of us in an ingenious electric portable oven that doubles up as a hot plate. She first placed the flattened disks of dough on the hot top, brushed them with beaten eggs then after a couple of minutes, she lifted them off, opened the hot top to slide the breads inside the ‘oven’ where they puffed up and browned. Then another lady spread the breads with butter before giving them to us to eat with freshly made cheese (shami), date syrup or honey. Totally fabulous. Here are a few pictures to make you jealous!
When I was doing the research for my baking book, I kept coming across variations on the same breads throughout the Mediterranean, especially when it came to multi-layered breads. In some countries, the multiple layers are achieved by flattening the dough, folding it, then flattening it again (Moroccan r’ghayef, Tunisian mlawi or Algerian m’hajjib). In others, it is done by flapping the dough in the air to stretch it very thinly, then slapping it against a marble top and folding it (Egyptian fiteer or Turkish katmer), or it is achieved by rolling a disk of dough into a sausage, then squishing the sausage into a ring, and flattening the ring (Moroccan melwi).
Well, as you know I was recently in the Emirates, and while there I came across their own version of warqa which they call regag. They also have their own version of r’ghayef, called mukassab and their version of qatayef or beghrir which they confusingly call lgeimat (used normally to describe saffron-infused fritters drizzled with date syrup).