Chami

  Ramadan Kareem! Ramadan is going on in the UAE, during this month Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and when the sun sets they break the fast. It is also time to be more grateful and patience, time for charity. Many families and friends get together to break their daytime fast, that evening meal is called iftar. The meal most often starts with a date and a glass of water; then usually soup or salad is served, numerous appetizers (mezze), which includes olives, hummus, and of course cheeses.Chami
 In my opinion, cheeses are loved by many people and every country has their own varieties and names, and Arab region is not the exception. One of the traditional Emirati cheeses is called Chami, which is similar to cottage cheese. I can even say more, it is a cottage cheese. The legend says that an Arabian bedouin traveled somewhere across the desert, and took some milk with him in a goat’s stomach, and while he was traveling, extremely hot sun and his movements (or his horse) caused the milk to separate into curd and whey; thus the first simple cheese was discovered. 
 Most probably that time it was goat’s or sheep’s milk and thus the cheese, but nowadays it is usually prepared by simmering cow’s laban (local dairy drink,  similar to Russian kefir or buttermilk). Chami is usually drizzled with ghee (clarified butter) and eaten with dates. In my home country, homemade cottage cheese is often made the same way: by simmering the soured cow’s milk that caused the milk to separate. I love cottage cheese, not only to eat it as is, I add it into cakes or sweet one-dish bakes (you can find numerous recipes if you write “cottage cheese” in the search line on the right). So I make it quite often at home, but I prefer to simmer local yogurt, which is sold in large one, two and larger liters buckets. thus I have the bigger quantity of the cheese.

Arabic Mezze

 While I’m enjoying the time in my home-country, in Dubai is the month of Ramadan. It’s one of the important months for Muslims; during the month they are fasting (no food or drink) during the daytime. Traditionally, it’s normal to brake the fast with dates before Iftar. Iftar includes buffet tables with a large variety of dishes.Arabic mezze
 Mezze is a selection of small dishes, appetizers served before the main course in many countries like Turkey, Lebanon, UAE, Syria, Greece, Cyprus. There are vegetarian, fish or meat mezze. Arabic-style mezze platters often include marinated olives, fresh herbs such as mint and zaatar, labneh (thick yogurt), halloumi cheese, kofta (meatballs) and many others. I guess, almost everyone is familiar with classic hummus – pureed chickpea dip. I do like this tasty dip, it’s wonderful with roasted chicken or lamb kofta, or simply with bread. But this time I made unusual hummus -with roasted red bell peppers and pomegranate molasses; it turned out so delicious! I served the hummus with Arabic pita bread, olives and baked halloumi cheese. Roasted red pepper hummus
 Halloumi cheese is another tasty appetizer, which is pretty popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. Baked halloumi with touch of honey and thyme makes wonderful snack. Serve it warm with bread or salad.Arabic mezze platter

Arabic Mezze: Roasted red pepper hummus & Baked halloumi

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Roasted red pepper hummus
Adapted from BBCFood

Ingredients

2 large red peppers
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot or 1/2 small brown onion
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika (plain or smoked as you like)
1 can (400g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 tbsp fresh chopped coriander
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp pomegranate molasses (or add more lemon juice)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black/white pepper, to taste
Preparation
  1. Cut peppers into halves and place them onto lined baking tray under the grill for 15 minutes, or roast covered in foil in preheated 180C oven  for 30 minutes. Remove their skins.
  2. In a small frying pan, heat olive oil, add onion and fry over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, add garlic and cumin and saute for a minute more.
  3. In a food processor, add peppers, fried onion, paprika, chickpeas, coriander, lemon and orange juices, molasses if using and pulse several times. Add extra virgin olive oil, and blend again. Season to taste.
  4. If you want to make the hummus thiner, add a couple of tablespoons of water.
  5. Serve with Arabic bread, pita, crackers or your favourite bread.
Baked Halloumi
Ingredients
200g halloumi cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp liquid honey
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black sesame seeds
  1. Cut halloumi into slices. Place onto baking tray lined with baking paper or foil.
  2. Mix all other ingredients. Pour over cheese.
  3. Bake in preheated 200C oven for 10 minutes or under the grill until just begin to brown.