Dubai Recipes 1980s-90s

Here are some of Dubai's traditional recipes that were published in various Dubai Recipe Books of 1980s and 90s although these recipes have been in existence for much longer than that!

Um Ali   Qahwat Arabic Coffee   Homous   Lebanese Moussaka    Kibbe Bil Saniyeh   Sayadieh   Shish Barak    Baharat
Al Batheeth Dates    Muhalabia

Um Ali

Literal translation of this dish's name is "Mother of Ali". In Egypt there was a poor family who didn't know what to give their friends as a gift so they mixed together the only ingredients they had. Result was Um Ali. Guests loved the dish so much, they asked their host for its name. The host didn't have a name so spontaneously called it after his wife who had made the dish - Um Ali, Mother of Ali. Nowadays Um Ali is always served at local weddings and parties but also found on hotel and restaurant menus.

Serves 6-8

    1. 1 litre milk
    2. 100-100g or 4-7oz sugar (depending on sweetness required)
    3. 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    4. 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    5. 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    6. 225g (5oz) toasted bread or filo dough
    7. 8 tbsp raisins or chopped dates
    8. 6 tbsp pistachios or almonds or walnuts
    9. Cream for serving
    1. Preheat oven to 200C or 400F/Gas6.
    2. Grease a medium sized ovenproof dish.
    3. Layer bread or dough with the fruit in the ovenproof dish.
    4. Heat milk, sugar and spices together.
    5. Pour milk over layered bread and fruit.
    6. Bake for 20 minutes.
    7. Add more milk during baking to keep it moist if required.
    8. Top with chopped pistachios. Serve with fresh cream.
    9. Enjoy and give thanks to Mother of Ali!

Qahwat Arabic Coffee

Arabic hospitality always starts with the traditional Ghawa coffee. It is customary to drink two or even three cups before shaking the cup from side to side to indicate that you have had enough.

    1. 6 cardamom pods.
    2. 1 cup cold water.
    3. 1/2 cup coarsely ground dark roast coffee.
    1. Lightly crush the cardamom pods in a mortar.
    2. Put the water in a pan and add the cardamom and coffee.
    3. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to low.
    4. Simmer for 20 minutes allowing the coffee grains to settle to the bottom.
    5. Pour into Arabic coffee cups.
    6. Arabic coffee should only fill half the cup. Serve without any sweetener.


Serves four

    1. 200g chick-peas
    2. 1 tbs bicarbonate of soda
    3. 30ml fresh lemon juice
    4. 1 tsp salt to taste
    5. 60ml ice water
    6. 5Og tahina sauce
    7. GARNISH -
      1. 1 tbs olive oil
      2. 4 pieces mint leaves
      3. 1-9 red radish
      1. Soak chick-peas in cold water with half-a-tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda.
      2. After soaking chick-peas for a few hours, strain them.
      3. Put strained chick-peas in a pot with water.
      4. Add remaining bicarbonate of soda.
      5. Boil for one hour until cooked
      6. Strain the chick-peas and rinse slowly.
      7. Pour the cooked chickpeas in a blender then add the iced water.
      8. Blend for 10 minutes
      9. Add lemon juice, salt and tahina sauce.
      10. Mix together for another 10 minutes.
      11. Pour homous into a platter, garnish with the cooked chick-peas, olive oil and sliced red radish.

Homous is best served with Arabic toasted bread and mixed pickles.

Lebanese Moussaka

Serves four

    1. 200g eggplant
    2. 1OOg tomatoes
    3. 1Oml olive oil
    4. 15g garlic
    5. 1 tsp salt and pepper
    6. 1OOg sliced onion
    7. 40g green pepper
    1. Pour olive oil into cooking pot then saute onions, garlic, green capsicum and tomato paste.
    2. Slice the tomatoes.
    3. Fry eggplant separately.
    4. Place a tissue under the eggplant. Once it's dry, mix it with the onions, garlic, green capsicum and the tomatoes for five minutes. Cover the pot for another five minutes.
    5. Serve it cold or hot.

Kibbe Bil Saniyeh

Serving a platter of baked stuffed Kibbe Kibbe bil Saniyeh with yoghurt, cucumber and salad is a wonderfully light meal. It can even be served individually in little mezze bowls. Kibbe are straightforward but time-consuming to make. Preparation time is around 1 hour while cooking time is 50 minutes. Serves 4-6.

    1. 1 kg (2.2 lb) lean minced lamb, all fat and gristle removed
    2. 500g (1.25lb) broken wheat (borghul)
    3. 150 g (l-2) onions, finely chopped
    4. 2 tbsp salt (or less, if preferred)
    5. 1 tsp cumin
    6. 1 tsp ground allspice
    7. 150 ml (2-3 cups) iced water
    8. 400 gm (l lb) butter
    1. 500g (l 1/41b) minced lamb meat
    2. 100 ml (l/3 cup) oil
    3. 1-2 onions, roughly chopped
    4. 100 gm (4 oz) pine nuts
    5. Salt
    6. A pinch of allspice
      1. Chop the onions and heat the oil in a frying pan.
      2. Add onions to the warm oil and cook gently for eight minutes until soft and translucent, not browned.
      3. Add the minced meat, season with salt.
      4. Add the allspice and pine nuts, then stir-fry for a few minutes.
      5. When cooked, remove the pot from the heat, allow to cool and keep aside, ready for stuffing.
      1. Place the borghul in a sieve and wash it several times under cold running water the previous night.
      2. Now drain and press with the back of a spoon to squeeze out any excess water.
      1. Add onions and borghul to the meat.
      2. Add the salt, cumin and allspice and mix well.
      3. Divide the meat mixture into 100gm/4 oz portions.
      4. Process the meat mixture in these portions in your food processor using the metal blade and ON /OFF switch to make it smooth and paste-like, adding some of the iced water and/ or some crushed ice chips to soften the meat mixture so it will spread easily into the tray later.
      5. Remove and place in a chilled bowl.
      6. Repeat for remaining portions of meat until all the meat has been processed.
      7. Divide the meat mixture or Kibbe in half.
      1. Melt some of the butter and grease a rectangular baking tray or pan.
      2. Press one half of the reserved Kibbe into a baking tray to make a flat, thin layer to cover the bottom of the tray completely
      3. Using the back of a large flat spoon that is dipped in chIlled iced water from time to time to stop the Kibbe mixture from sticking to the spoon. You can also use your hands (perfectly clean and wet hands).
      4. Next, spread the stuffing mixture over the Kibbe to cover the Kibbe layer completely.
      5. Then divide the remaining half of the Kibbe mixture into 6-8 flattened balls. Place them over the stuffing layer in the tray. Now press them down very carefully over stuffing layer of the tray to cover the stuffing in the tray completely, using the back end of a large flat spoon in the same way as earlier using the cold wet back of a spoon or hand to smooth the top.
    5. BAKING
      1. Preheat oven to 190C 375F.
      2. Cut through the mixture or score so it makes crisscross pattern forming diamond shapes. Using a serrated knife dipped in hot water helps to make it easier.
      3. Melt the remaining butter and then pour it over the top.
      4. Bake it in a preheated hot oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Sayadieh or baked fish pulao with pine nuts

A classic from Lebanon enriched with dark fish stock - some of the stock is reduced and served as a flavoured sauce or gravy with the pulao. Any white fish can be used for example, hammour, shari or red snapper. Pulao is always topped with crispyfried caramelised onions. Preparation takes around 45 minutes and cooking time is 1 hour. Serves 6-8.

    1. 2.5 kg (4-5 lbs) whole white fish
    2. 200 gm (2-3) onions sliced
    3. 250 ml (1 cup) oil
    4. Juice of half a lemon
    5. 1 lemon, sliced
    1. 3 tsp baharat spice
    2. 1 1/2 tsp cumin
    3. Salt and white pepper to season
    1. 1,500 ml (6 cups) water
    2. 600 gm (3 cups) rice
    3. 1 tbsp salt
    1. 125 ml (l/2 cup) water
    1. 50 gm (2-3 tbsp) pine nuts
    2. Crispy caramelised onions
    1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F.
    2. Remove scale, remove the head, then wash ~o~ and dry the fish. Keep the fish head
    3. To caramelise the onions: heat half::-.iO oil in a pot or pan and add the onio:ns
    4. Let them cook on a gentle heat unti caramelised or brown/black in colour but not burned.
    5. Remove the crispy onions from the pot, place on kitchen paper to remove excess oil to reserve
    6. Keep a Iittle oil in pan for frying the fishhead.
    1. Add the fish head to the oil in the pan in which the onions were cooked.
    2. Add 1 tsp bahara spice, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, salt and pepper and fry.
    3. When browned, add water and let it boil for 45 minutes.
    4. Strain and use it to cook the rice.
    1. Wash the rice three times. Soak it for 1/2 an hour.
    2. Add only half of the remaining oil (1/4 cup) to a large pot.
    3. When hot, add the rice, : tsp baharat spice mixture and 1/2 tsp cumin.
    4. Stir-fry to seal the rice for 2-3 minutes.
    5. Pour in the reserved stock over the rice, keeping one cup of the stock aside for the sauce.
    6. Bring the rice to a boil on high heat.
    7. When boiling, reduce the heat and let it cook gently for 20 minutes or until all the stock has been absorbed.
    8. Meanwhile, bake the fish using the remaining oil, oil the oven roasting pan and the fish.
    9. Season it inside and outwith salt, pepper and the remaining ground cumin and baharat spic mixture.
    10. Place the sliced iemon ithe fish.
    11. Place the seasoned Fish roasting pan, pouring in the half cup or water and then bake in the preheated oven for one hour.
    1. heat the reserved cup of fish stock and add the juice of half a lemon,
    2. let it boil to reduce and thicken.
    3. Strain and serve with the fish.
    1. Pile the cooked rice on a platter and
    2. Top it with pieces of fish.
    3. Garnish with the crispy caramelised fried onions and pine nuts.

Stew Bamia

Lamb and okra stew or stew bamia is a traditional dish for all seasons. Serve it with rice. Serves 4-6.

    1. 600gm (1.25lbs) Okra - fresh or frozen
    2. 200gm (7 oz)lambmeat.
    3. 2 tbsp butter
    4. 2 small onions, chopped
    5. 600gm (1.251b) fresh tomatoes seeded
    6. Salt and pepper to taste
    7. 1 garlic dove, crushed
    8. 1 bunch fresh coriander
    9. Pinch of ground coriander
    10. 125 ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
    1. Clean the okra and wash in cold water then place in a colander or sieve and drain to dry completely.
    2. Cut the meat into cubes. Heat a tablespoon of butter in non-stick pan and add the onions.
    3. Saute until soft and golden.
    4. Add the chopped tomatoes with the meat. Stir and add little water, season with salt and pepper.
    5. Cook till the meat is tender.
    6. Heat another tablespoon of butter in other non-stick pan and add the okra.
    7. Saute until soft and golden on a medium to hot pan, then add to the meat and let it cook with the meat for 10 minutes.
    8. In the meantime, heat the remaining butter in the same pan, add the garlic and both corianders, sauteing them in the butter for two minutes.
    9. Then add this to the meat and let it simmer and cook together for three minutes.
    10. Lastly, pour in the lemon juice. Stir carefully once or twice and let it simmer gently for five minutes. Serve.

Shish Barak

Shish barak are little lamb pies in yoghurt or laban that are great with an accompaniment like buttered rice. Minced beef can be used but lamb is preferred. Preparation time is around 50 minutes and the pies take about one hour to cook. They can be served hot or cold. Serves 4-6.

    1. 1.25lt (l.5 cups) yoghurt
    2. 100 gm (14 oz) minced lamb
    3. 1-2 small onion, finely chopped
    4. 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    5. A pinch of salt
    6. 1/2 tsp baharat
    7. For the pastry:
    8. 100 gm (14 oz) flour
    9. 125 ml (1/4 cup) water
    10. A pinch of salt
  2. For the garnish:
    1. 80 gm (3-4 oz) fresh coriander leaf chopped
    2. 60 gm (2-3 oz) butter
    1. To make the pastry
      1. Mix the flour, water and little salt and knead until dough is soft. Let it rest in the fridge covered in plastic wrap for 30 minute
    2. For the stuffing:
      1. Mix the minced meat, chopped onions, garlic, salt and bahar spice mixture together. Mix well until smooth.
    3. Preheat oven to 190C 375 F. Roll pastry out flat and cut it in small round pieces. Fill each circle of pastry with a tablespoon of meat mixture, then pull up the sides of the pastry to cover the meat mixture stuffing.
    4. Put all the meat pies on a well greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven for 5-7 minutes. In the meantime, heat yoghurt on a gentle simmer and keep stirring until it is thickened (about 20 minutes).
    5. Put the meat pies into the yoghurt and cook for five minutes.
    6. In the meantime, melt the butter and add the chopped coriander.
    7. Serve the yoghurt and meat pies with coriander and butter mixture on top.


An aromatic spice mixture used in many Arabic dishes

    1. 4 whole nutmegs (yielding 1/4 cup powder)
    2. 1/2 cup black peppercorns
    3. 1/4 cup coriander seeds
    4. 1/4 cup cassia bark
    5. 1/4 cup cloves
    6. III cup cumin seeds
    7. 2 tsp cardamom seeds
    8. 1/2 cup ground paprika
    1. Grate the nutmeg taking off the outside layer of the kernel.
    2. Place the peppercorns coriander seeds cassia cloves cumin and cardamom seeds in a spice grinder and grind until a smooth powder is formed. This can be done in batches and mixed together when all the spices are ground.
    3. Add the paprika and the nutmeg when all the spices are ground.

Al Batheeth Dates

Al Batheeth (date sweetmeat) Dates play a very special role during Ramadan when they are eaten to break the day's fasting. AI Batheeth is one of the oldest and most popular of recipes.

    1. 1 cup of wholemeal flour
    2. 1/4 cup ghee or clarified butter
    3. 1 cardamom pod, crushed
    4. 1 cup of dates, chopped
    5. 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    6. icing sugar for serving
    1. Put the flour in a heavy based saucepan and stir over a medium heat until lighdy browned - this takes about 10 minutes.
    2. In another saucepan. heat the ghee or butter. add the cardamom pod. Heat for about 5 minutes. turn off the heat and leave to stand.
    3. Add the dates to the browned flour and cook for about two minutes or until the dates feel soft. Stir frequendy during this time.
    4. Remove the cardamom pod from the ghee and add the ghee to the flour mixture. Add the ginger and stir well.
    5. Leave the mixture to cool enough to handle.
    1. Take a small spoonful of the mixture and knead well.
    2. Mould into oval shapes. Pack into a dish and sprinkle with icing sugar.


Serves four

    1. 1 litre milk
    2. 250g sugar
    3. 80g cornflour
    4. 10g rose water
    1. Mix the cornflour and the sugar together in a pot.
    2. Bring the milk to boil and pour quarter of the milk into the cornflour mix.
    3. Then pour the whole mixture back into the pot and cook for a further five minutes stirring at all times with the rose water until it thickens.
    4. Once finished pour into prepared bowls and leave to set.
    5. Serve cold and garnish with nuts