Saudi Arabia: Meeting Hala and Introduction to Umm Ali

I think April 2011 must be the month for American Bedu to get to meet blogging friends!  This week I had the honor to finally meet Saudi national extraordinaire Hala Al-Dosari.  Hala and I had made plans for the past year to get together but my cancer relapse and chemotherapy treatments intervened with our well laid plans.  In fact, Hala returned to Saudi and although confident she would return to the States did not know when that day would be.  Therefore it was all the more joyful to hear from her and that she was back in the States and available for us to get together!!

Hala and I initially met through our mutual interests in blogs and blogging.  She’s been an active blogger since 2007 when she arrived in the USA as a graduate student. Hala is a multi-gifted Saudi woman who writes eloquently in her second language, English; a contributor to one of the most widely read Arabic language Saudi newspapers; worked as a medical scientist in the health care sector prior to her student scholarship; and has aspirations to merge her professional experience and graduate experiences with her personal yearnings to establish an organization providing resources and assistance to victims of domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia.

Meeting Hala was just like receiving one of my own sisters to my home.  We shared and laughed as I turned my kitchen over to Hala.  Hala told me even before she arrived she would prepare the traditional and scrumptious dessert, Umm Ali.  I guess I should not have been surprised then at seeing the grocery bag she had brought with her!

Getting to know someone in the kitchen is one of the best ways to break the ice!  While some people may have a “public face” or “virtual face” or “private face,” Hala is all faces combined to one and beautiful both inside and out or as it would be said in Saudi, has a beautiful white heart.  Her compassion for charity and desire to help shape her country with opportunities in the best interests of the people came through loud and clear.  She is one of the few who is willing to speak openly that domestic abuse of women In Saudi Arabia can and does exist and must be addressed.  I am confident that Hala will obtain her vision to establish an organization focused on domestic violence.

Anyone who meets Hala will know that Saudi women have independent minds and talents!  She personifies why the Saudi woman should never be underestimated. 

All too soon after preparing AND enjoying the Umm Ali which Hala prepared it was time for her visit to come to an end.  I look forward to the next time Hala and I can get together and will conclude this post with Hala’s FABULOUS recipe for Umm Ali:

1. Combine 2 cups of milk, ¾-1/2 cup of sugar, 1 cup of whipped cream, half cup of coconut flakes/ powder in a saucepan, let the mixture boil until it foams up in about 10-15 minutes

2. Meanwhile, turn on the oven on broil, you’ll need to break about 2 sheets of thin filo dough into large pieces in an oven tray, let the filo dough gets to light yellow (watch out from burning), then get it out, an alternative to Filo dough is 3 spring rolls sheets, also corn Flakes can be used without any broiling needed

3. Once your Filo layer is Yellowish and crisp, get the tray out, liberally add your choice of dried fruits and nuts, I usually use raisins and pecans, I’ve tried dried banana with honey streaks, or apple with cinnamon and all are great

4. Now, pour your hot milk over the Filo tray layer, it’s ok if some filo parts are above the milk level, important note here is that if you put so much milk it’ll be liquidy and I don’t like this but you’re welcome to try it, my style is to pour the milk for about an inch above the Filo layer, this will create a more solid but still moist and warm layer, now put it back in oven, bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes

5. It’s usually served warm with tea or coffee, you may sprinkle each piece with vanilla/ cinnamon, or nutmeg for additional flavor



10 Responses

  1. I am so glad that you got to meet Hala!
    and the recipe sounds fantastic!
    I can’t wait to try it!

  2. If this were an old movie promo: “You’ve read the blog! Now, try the recipe!”

  3. I like that Jerry!

    The recipe is delicious…I can attest to that!

  4. i have a question..
    so you layer the filo first, then nuts and then pour the milk? won’t it run, or do you alternate filo,nuts and then soak the whole thing n milk before you bake?

    My daughter wants to try this this weekend henc ethe questions.

  5. I thought something seemed off with the recipe so I looked it up. I think Hala has a step missing. You bake the philo(or puff pastry) and then break it up and put it in another dish that you then cover with the fruit and milk etc. and bake.

    I’m going to try this for sure!

  6. what kind of fruit and/or nuts did this one have in it?

  7. Hala prepared the filo first. She broke it up into pieces and layered the bottom of the pan. She put it into the oven on broil. After one side broiling for about 2-3 minutes she took out the dish and turned the filo pieces over to let the other sides brown. While the filo cooled down, the milk, cream and sugar mix was prepared and put on the stove to allow the brown sugar to dissolve and the liquids to come to a boil. It was all then poured on top of the filo mix. The secret is pouring the right amount so that the filo is just covered and therefore the liquid mix thickens as baking. Walnuts were added atop before putting the pan in the oven to bake.

    Hala said dried apricots or raisins are popular fruits some use in the mix.

    Hope this helps and glad I saw these comments before being away from internet for a week!

  8. Hala is a wonderful person indeed. Whether in her writings or when you see her speak, she is so passionate about her opinions and views for Saudi women.

    But this is the first time I hear about her kitchen talents though 🙂

  9. I just made this. I used apples sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins and walnuts. yum!

  10. It is sooo delicious, easy to make AND can be made with so many variations!!

    Thanks for sharing Lynn.

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