Muhammar

Muhammar

Sweet rice

By
From
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Serves
5-6
Photographer
Alan Benson

Known as the Bahraini pearl divers’ rice, muhammar is one of those recipes that falls into the ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ category.

Though early pearl divers were doubtlessly not aware of the physiological implications of diving, at some stage they must have found they could dive more frequently and with less ill-effect if they ate sweet foods (which maintained blood sugar levels) and sustaining foods (carbohydrates and fats). The combination of date juice, rice and fat in this dish fulfilled these requirements.

Diving enthusiasts might be interested in the skills of these intrepid men. Using a rope to guide them, they would rapidly descend to a depth of up to 40 metres with a weight tied to their toes. They would stay down for 10–15 minutes, scoop up any oysters in sight, then ascend.

Diving at such a depth even with modern scuba gear has its hazards, let alone with no breathing apparatus at all. Needless to say the mortality rate was high, with sharks, sea snakes and jellyfish adding to the dangers involved.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
3 cardamom pods, cracked
2 tablespoons rosewater
400g basmati rice
1 tablespoon salt
55-75g sugar or honey
60g ghee or butter

Method

  1. Add the saffron and cardamom to the rosewater and set aside to steep.
  2. Pick over the rice, place in a sieve and wash under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain.
  3. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the salt and rice and stir occasionally until the water returns to the boil. Leave uncovered and boil for 8 minutes. Strain and place in a bowl.
  4. Pour the sugar or honey over the hot rice and mix through with a fork.
  5. Heat the ghee or butter in the same pan in which the rice was cooked. Add the sugared rice and sprinkle the rosewater mixture over the top. Make three holes in the rice with the end of a wooden spoon.
  6. Cover the rim of the pan with a paper towel and place the lid on tightly. Cook over low heat for 20–25 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
  7. Serve with grilled fish and roast lamb.
Tags:
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Tess
Mallos
Middle Eastern
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