The first in our series of Ramadan Iftar recipes is Umm Ali / Om Ali, an Egyptian bread pudding recipe that is quick to make and even quicker by using flaky croissants. Make this quick, satisfying dessert for Iftar to enjoy as a family to finish off your Iftar feast! Read on to see how to make Umm Ali with croissants.
For recipe steps, please watch video at the end of post.
Ramadan is almost here! For Muslims around the world, the month of Ramadan is a time eagerly-awaited, for self-reflection, practicing patience, asking for forgiveness, partaking in charity, and sharing food with others.
Ramadan is the 9th month in the Islamic calendar, on which the first verse of the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Fasting during this month was not commemorated until much later. During Ramadan, Muslims partake in abstaining from food, water, intimacy, anger from sunrise to sunset. Traditionally fast is broken with date and water, and often indulging in a feast after Maghrib (sunset) prayers.
A lot of scientific benefits of fasting have been identified, and it is not as hard as it sounds. It certainly is much more difficult during summer, particularly if you live in Europe and North America, but watching people’s determination to keep each of these fasts is extremely inspiring.
Many cultures induce a food coma by going overboard with fried foods and food in general, which in my opinion isn’t the spirit of Ramadan (mostly because you feel unproductive and bloated the rest of the night, and end up forgetting the purpose of fasting) but everything in moderation, I say!
While growing up in Saudi Arabia, we had a few Bangladeshi staples at home, along with Arab staples. We would also sometimes venture out to restaurants of varying cuisines to add variety. I would help my mother in making samosas, spring rolls and soups in advance to have throughout Ramadan. I haven’t felt the same spirit of Ramadan anywhere else. People became nicer, school and office hours were shortened, streets lined up with stalls by the afternoon, malls stayed open till wee hours of the morning, listening to the sermons and partaking in Taraweeh (Ramadan prayers), and breaking fast at the holy mosques of Makkah and Madinah was certainly a memorable highlight. It was a sense of peace we only felt during Ramadan.
Ramadan in Bangladesh was not that different but certainly more chaotic and not as many non-fried food options as we would like. It was nonetheless wonderful to break fast with extended family members and people I haven’t seen in years. Breaking fast at my Dad’s little rural village was always a humbling experience because of the effort everyone would take to make our stay comfortable and making dishes that we would like. Oh I’m getting a little teary eyed thinking about my Uncles and Aunties’ hospitality.
Moving to Malaysia, I had no family but a lot of friends who broke fast with me or kept me company while I broke fast. Eating at a ‘Mamak’ (see my Nasi Goreng post) was the norm and every Mamak, café, restaurant was full during Iftar (breaking fast) time. People preferred eating out than at home. And I was fine with that since I found glimpses of that Ramadan spirit I grew up with in Saudi Arabia.
And then when I came to Australia, I did not feel any of that Ramadan spirit, unless I ventured off to Western Sydney (thank you Lakemba and Auburn) and witnessed maestros making perfectly twirled hot and crispy jalebis, Mughlai paratha, Baklava, fresh orange and carrot juice…and many many more regional dishes. I have also established a tradition with my cousins of breaking the first fast together. So each year, no matter what, that fast is broken with my cousins at their place, with traditional Bengali food. My colleagues are also always accommodating inquiring about how I am doing and feeling, and being careful about eating around me, although I have to keep telling them that it doesn’t bother me and in fact helps me earn more rewards for not being tempted haha!
So in honour of Ramadan starting next weekend, I am dedicating the next month to Ramadan Iftar (Breaking fast) recipes from around the world! Every region has their own distinct recipes and preparations, and I’d like to give you a taste of some of these cultures.
Our first stop is Egypt, where we experience an Egyptian bread pudding that goes by the name Umm Ali (Ali’s Mother). I’m not really sure why it’s named so, but why does it really matter if Ali’s mother is the one who came up with this genius dessert? My father is extremely fond of this dessert, and every Ramadan, just like clockwork, my uncle would bring this over for my Dad to swoon over.
This is traditionally made with puff pastry, raisins, almonds and a milk mixture, but I’ve made it simpler (and more indulgent) by using croissants. Yes, croissants! How do I know this is just as good with croissants? I made this while my father was visiting earlier this year and I got a nod of approval. So folks, add a gourmet touch to it and wow your guests with this quick and easy recipe. Bon appetit and Ramadan Kareem!
Note: Ashta / Kashta is known as clotted cream but also sold as breakfast cream in little tins in Middle Eastern stores.
Umm Ali is an Egyptian version of bread pudding traditionally made with puff pastry. This is a quick version that uses croissants. Perfect for Ramadan or any time of the year.
- 6-7 medium sized croissants
- 375 ml evaporated milk
- 250 ml condensed milk
- 4 tbsp flaked almonds
- 3 tbsp raisins
- 200 g ashta / kashta (clotted cream)
Pre-heat oven to 180C
Tear croissants into large pieces
Mix evaporated milk and condensed milk
Place half of croissant pieces in baking dish. Add half the milk mixture.
Add 2 tbsp almonds and 2 tbsp raisins.
Add remaining croissants and cover with remaining milk mixture.
Top with remaining almonds and raisins.
Add clotted cream in spoonfuls.
Bake at 180C for 30 mins until cream has melted and sides have browned.
Eat while warm or cold.
Watch how to make Egyptian Umm Ali (Om Ali)