Thursday, October 30, 2014

M'hanncha...Moroccan Snake Cake...

Got a black magic woman.
Got a black magic woman.

I got a black magic woman.
Got me so blind I can't see
That she's a black magic woman
Tryin to make a devil out of me.

In Saudi, wives object to them as housemaids. In North Africa, some boys are branded with a magical talisman as protection from these women. It's reputed they can put something in a man's tea and he will forget his wife, his children and give away all his money.  They have spectacular gowns, drive expensive cars, and own villas back home. Who are these temptresses with the formidable hips and magical powers? Morocco girls of course.

If you google this topic, you will find threads galore swearing Moroccan women lure men into marriage using magic. But you will also find many threads swearing they don't, that the ladies of Marrakesh just know how to treat a man...whatever that means. Here in Salalah, there is no debate among the locals. A Morocco girl will capture your heart and your wallet if you aren't careful. 

I think they are beautiful. Yes, some of them are working girls, but meh. Perhaps this has far more to do with lack of access to higher education? Just sayin. All the Moroccan women I've met here have been nothing but kind to me. Several of them  attended my wedding and rocked the hotel in their finery. I got no complaints. But I still watch out for who hands my husband his coffee. 
Antique Photograph of Moroccan Lass (stock photo)

For a taste of Morocco

*Disclaimer: This is absolutely not my recipe or my words. I used a recipe I found on SoupAddict. Follow the above link to her blog.

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 eggs
2 cups almond flour*
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rose water
zest from one lemon
zest from one orange
1/3 cup pistachios, chopped or roughly ground
9 sheets of filo dough (plus extra for repairs)
granulated sugar, for sprinkling
rosebuds, for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs. The mixture will look quite broken and curdled. Stir in the almond flour, which will pull everything together quite nicely.
3. Add the all-purpose flour, rose water and zests, stirring to incorporate. Finally, add the pistachios to the almond paste.
4. On a long, clean work surface**, line up five of the filo sheets, lengthwise, end-to-end (short ends touching). Lay the remaining four sheets on top, staggering so that the center of each top sheet lies on the seam of two bottom sheets.
5. Spoon the almond paste down the length of the filo sheets, along the edge nearest you, about 2 inches from the edge. Sprinkle sugar over the almond paste.
6. Working quickly, roll the filo around the paste, like a cigar – one rotation at only at this point – moving down the length of the filo. With the first roll entirely complete, continue rolling until you’ve created a tube. Starting at one end, begin coiling the tube flat along the work surface, taking care not to crack the filo too badly as you roll. Repair any cracks with the extra filo brushed with melted butter.
7. Transfer to a baking sheet (I always used a rimmed sheet) and bake for 40 minutes. Remove, and allow to cool.
8. Dust with extra confectioners’ sugar and garnish with small rose buds (if using)
*You can grind fresh almonds to make your own almond flour. Use about 2 heaping cups of almonds (as measured before grinding).

I can only dream of making this so well. Saturday, I start my daily cake challenge. These posts are "practice," as I figure out how to set up a blog, insert pictures, and all that happy hoohaa. The first cake I will bake is this one:

We'll see how it goes. I hope you tune in, make comments, try the cake (for that matter ask me to give you the cake if you live in Salalah). 

Felicia El Aid

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pre-challenge...or What the heck is she thinking?

On September 6, 2012 I stood on a rooftop in Saada and looked over the neighborhood. Everything was white or beige or brown. I shuddered. I'd just arrived from India, where I spent a lot of time in 2012.  When I wasn't in India, I thought about India. Thanks to India, I lost over 20 kilos, did yoga twice a day, and walked daily for 6km...or about 3 miles. Now? Nothing. All I could do was sit, scared and alone, and wait for school to start. I couldn't bring myself to walk the neighborhood, swathed in black from head to toe, incinerating in the heat. I was broke and deeply unhappy.

In June, 2012, I submitted several applications to teach overseas. Some to Saudi, a few to Turkey, and one to Oman. I never would have considered Oman, except my brother said it was a good place, ruled by a "cool Sultan." What I really wanted was a job offer in Istanbul. I've been enamored with that city for years. I've never seen it, never been there, but it called to me. I got an interview with a company there immediately, and a job offer followed right away. I never did hear from anyplace in Saudi, and Oman? Forgot I applied there. I accepted the job offer in Istanbul, booked a flight to return to Kerala, and got the heck out of Maine. I'd been helping take care of my grandmother for two years, and it was time for someone else to do it. Before I left for the airport, I crawled on the bed and held her hand. "Thank you for all you done for me," she said. I kissed her, and I was gone. She died in February 2014, far from the home she lived in for 75 years, with the only daughter still willing to look after her holding her hand.

While I sat in India, eating bananas and cookies, doing yoga, and napping on the balcony of my hotel room, my brother was campaigning for me to turn down the Istanbul offer and wait for Oman. "It's Ramadan, Felicia...nothing happens during Ramadan. Just wait." He was more than persistent..he was adamant. "It's a bad deal, Flea. You will end up in another crap situation, and your life will not be any better than it was in Maine. Wait for Oman." I finally turned down the job in Istanbul at the eleventh hour, told my brother if I didn't get the Oman job he was paying my flight out and supporting me until I did find work, and had a quiet nervous breakdown. Three days later I was in Salalah.

I should have started this blog a long time ago. You might have followed me as I figured out what it felt like to be an American Muslim (convert) here in the Gulf, particularly this part of Oman. You certainly would have experienced me falling in love with the man I married a year ago. You would have seen me move from being scared and alone to social butterfly. But I didn't start that blog.  I was always worried that my observations were going to offend, and navigating that was just too overwhelming.

But I can bake cake. Sometimes I bake great cakes. Sometimes they are absolute crap. I can also talk about my home now without worrying so much, complete with pictures. The challenge starts November 1st. A cake a day for a year, no matter what. How I will manage this, God only knows.

My Aunt Susan holding Dot the Great's hand near the end. See you on the other side Gram!