Category Archives: dessert

south american dinner

Chris’s mom hosted a local book launch at the library this past Wednesday, so we attended and listened as she talked about her visit to Chaitén volcano in Chile, which the novel is based around (it’s an eco-thriller). Chris snagged a recipe for some delicious chocolate-chili cookies (probably to be posted at a later date) and also won a bottle of Chilean wine. We decided to make it into a South American-themed night a few nights later and concocted a couple of dishes out of one of the recipe books we acquired in South America. As we didn’t spend much time in Chile, we couldn’t do a Chilean night, but thankfully the Colombian cookbook we had offered a few delicious opportunities.

We hauled out our Spanish copy of Secrets of Colombian Cooking (we recently discovered it was originally publish in English then translated for the author’s home country – here we figured we were getting an inside Colombian scoop!) and settled on Pollo Sudado, as it looked fairly easy (though time-consuming) and had pretty common ingredients. It’s a lot of FLURRY OF ACTIVITY then wait then FLURRY then wait, but in the end, it tasted like something we would’ve had for lunch in a Colombian restaurant, which was a good sign.

Pollo sudado

12 chicken thighs
1/3 c onion, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 c onions, sliced
2 c tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp achiote (we used turmeric; see below)*
1 cube chicken bullion
1.5 lbs (about 12) potatoes

In a big bowl combine the chicken, chopped onion, 2 tbsp of oil, mustard, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and pepper. Mix well and let sit for 30 minutes.

In a big pot over medium heat warm 1 tbsp oil and saute the onions for 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, the other 2 tsp of salt, Worchestershire, achiote, and bullion and fry for 4 more minutes.

Add the chicken mixture and 1 cup of water or chicken broth. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes, cover again and cook until the potatoes are finished, about 20 minutes.

It says to serve with white rice, but we thought the potatoes were enough. It’s very South American to have two or three carbs in a meal at the same time, though.

*We didn’t have any achiote spice, so we just used turmeric. It might have a slightly different flavour, but tasted close enough for us in the end.

How can you top a delicious dish like this? How about with a wonderful version of the dessert that appears on nearly every South American menu – arroz con leche (rice pudding)? This dessert was possibly the best arroz con leche I’ve ever had, and I LOVE rice pudding. It takes a long time to make – an hour of soaking, at least 40 minutes of cooking, then cooling time – but it is worth every second (and it’s easy). The spices saturate everything and the rice is so soft that it melts in your mouth. It recommends serving it cold, but I love a nice warm rice pudding. Either way, it’s really good.

Oh, and how was the wine? It was OK – a little on the dry side, though the finish was nice. To be honest, the food kind of drove out thoughts about the wine. At least it was a good instigator!

Arroz con Leche

1.5 c rice, washed
1/4 c sugar (the recipe calls for 1/2 c, but we found half of that was enough)
2 sticks of cinnamon
6 cloves
1 tsp salt
2 c whole milk
1 c sweetened condensed milk
1 c cream
1/2 c raisins (optional)

Mix the rice, 6 cups of water, and the cloves and cinnamon in a bowl. Let it sit at room temperature for one hour. Do not stir.

In a pot over medium heat, place the rice, water, and spices, 1/4 c of sugar, and the salt. Cover, lower the heat to medium-low and cook at a simmer for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the water is gone. (It only took about 40 minutes for us, though it overboiled at first.)

Uncover, add the other 1/4 c of sugar, the milk, the condensed milk, and the cream. Mix with a wooden spoon, cover, and cook at a simmer for 5 minutes.

If desired, add the raisins and cook for another few minutes.

Uncover and let sit until desired temperature reached.

arroz con leche


the best baklava

Baklava could be said to come from Turkey, even though it was probably brought here by the people who became Turks, moving westward out of Central Asia many centuries ago. The Ottomans truly developed the art, however, giving rise to baklava chefs judged on the thinness of their phyllo. Some stories say that, back in the day, the master of the house would test the thickness of sometimes-100-sheet baklava with a gold coin: if the coin fell through all the layers to the tray, the chef got to keep the it. In Gaziantep, there’s a new culinary school that includes training for baklava creators. The experts say it take 15-20 years to become an expert, studying mixtures and ingredients, rolling and spreading techniques, baking and syruping procedures. Baklava is available anywhere in the country, but pistachio baklava is a specialty of Gaziantep and is almost exclusively what is available in the many stores that line the street.

We had tried some good baklava and some mediocre baklava while staying with friends in Bursa. Well, so we were told – it all tasted pretty good to us. Fresh baklava is a different matter, however. If made properly, the piece should make a kssssht sound when bitten into. That shows the pastry is as new as it’s going to get. Luckily, we got this a couple of times, and we tried to find it as much as we could while we were in Gaziantep, stopping after every meal for a bit of baklava here and there.

We even found out there were different kind of baklava. The carrot slice was just a large slice of baklava, the sobiyet had a large spread of cream in the middle, and even the regular baklava came in 20-layer and 45-layer (see the picture to the right) varieties! There were also pieces of pure pistachio paste wrapped in a single layer of phyllo, which I enjoyed a lot.

I’m sad to report that we haven’t found the level of baklava found in Gaziantep yet in the rest of the country – we’ve been bumped up a baklava notch. Other pieces seem over-syruped or too dry or the filling is lackluster. *Sigh* That’s the problem when you try the best – it’s hard to go back to the rest. Still, we’ll valiantly keep testing…

sweet egyptian desserts, part iii

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of anything and didn’t make any note, so I’m just going to post pictures of these delicious creations and make comments from what I remember. More careful documentation will be done in Jordan, as they appear.

That’s coconut on filo dough pie in the corner, and it’s as awesome as it sounds. The others are a type of shredded-wheat-like dough used in a lot of pastries here.

The roll on the right is like apricot Fruit Roll-up with coconut in the middle. Again, as awesome as it sounds. The rest is filo dough and shredded-wheat dough stuff like above.

I remember that the cookie was rather dry, though it had pistachios in it, and the light coloured stick had fig in the middle.

Delicious filo dough sweets in the window.

Some kind of cakey confection. It may be the cornmeal-like cake I mentioned in the dessert post from Luxor, but that’s unconfirmed. Your choice – pistachios or chocolate on top!

om ali & mahalabia – egyptian desserts

One of the first Egyptian foods we tried here was a dessert called Om Ali. Supposedly, it was introduced by an Irish wife of a ruler way back, it’s a bunch of filo dough soaked in sweet milk with nuts and baked. Healthy it is not. We tried a more street-local version our first night with walnuts in it that was good, then the next day we headed to a fancy hotel buffet and had the rich version of it with almonds (and it was much more well done to boot). The pastry becomes saturated and really soft, soft enough to cut through with a spoon. You spoon it out, along with some sweetened hot milk – the stuff is floating in it there’s so much – and sit down with a bowl of sweetness.

Mahalabia was, funny enough, the last dessert we were able to try in Egypt. It was at a tiny koshary place and was pre-prepared and stored in little cups, so I don’t think that we got the full extent of this dessert. It’s a kind of thick milk pudding, flavoured with rose water and coconut. What we got was good, but I felt like it could be even more. From doing a little bit of research on recipes, it seems that it’s just hot milk, sugar, and cornstarch with coconut mixed in, and even the coconut is optional. Rose water is usually used, though I also saw references to vanilla. It’ll be worth a try making, if for nothing else than for variety. Chris had high hopes dashed on this one, though I still noticed her cup empty at the end…

sweet egyptian desserts, part II

We returned to Sofra for their dessert tray. I enjoyed it more than Christine – she was expecting more, especially having tried some of them at bakeries. I thought they were pretty good, though a little small. I don’t remember which one is which, but I can sum up the contents. One, of course, was baklava, and was well-done, as I would have expected. One seemed to have fig in it (the dark one – quite tasty), while another seemed to be made with a kind of cornmeal and honey – it had a grainy texture and a very sweet taste. There was a kind of cake with a hardened apricot/orange syrup that I rather enjoyed but Chris found dry. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the others, though I do remember that that’s watermelon between the desserts.

The pleasant surprise was the drink that we ordered to accompany it. Sahlab, according to our guide, is made with semolina powder, milk, and chopped nuts, though the menu here said that it was made from orchids. Either way, it was wonderful. Warm and smooth, it had a very delicate taste here, one I would associate with orchids. The peanuts (I believe) on top were a nice addition as well.

sweet egyptian desserts, part I

While we were in Alexandria, we made it a point to visit a dessert place mentioned in the Lonely Planet, having only had a chance to sample Egyptian pastries. While tasty, they don’t quite qualify as dessert – pastries can be bought at a bakery and enjoyed anywhere, but desserts need to be enjoyed sitting down. Anyway, we walked through some back streets in a semi-residential area – I feel pretty safe here in Egypt especially when there are two of us and we’re moving confidently – and sat down at a small little dessert shack amongst a tonne of women. Apparently, a dessert shop is an acceptable place for them to meet, as this was the largest gathering of women I’ve seen yet in Egypt. The book recommended couscousy, a dessert made with couscous, raisins, coconut, nuts, powdered sugar, and hot milk. While we were waiting, everyone else got served – not that we were waiting long, but everyone else’s orders were ready at the same time, and most seemed to be ordering something white with nuts on top. No kidding, like 80% of the people had this, so we ordered one as well.

The couscousy was pretty good, especially when enough sugar was added, though we could’ve used more milk to give all of it a good soaking. There were almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and pistachios on it which gave it a good crunch, and the raisins (sultanas) gave it depth of taste. Really, a pretty simple dessert, but quite tasty, if not filling.

The other dessert turned out to be chilled rice pudding with ice cream on top and nuts on top of all that. It was really very tasty and the ice cream and rice pudding went together surprisingly well.

It was a very successful dessert-tasting. I just wish we could’ve read the menu – as this place was pretty far out of downtown, it was beyond the reach of tourists and therefore didn’t have a big incentive to translate. Ah well, sometimes the mystery is like a secret sauce…


Fiteer is commonly known as Egyptian pizza. It has a very thin crust, however, almost like several layers of phyllo dough. It seems to be made with the main ingredient – sausage, tuna – sandwiched between layers and the cheese and other toppings placed on top of the top layer. It’s nice and light – a whole pizza between two people is a nice light meal, as opposed to a gastonomic metric ton.

Fiteer can also be had as a dessert item. Pictured here was the type we tried one afternoon: honey and cream fiteer. It was as rich and delicious as it sounded, topped with coconut, powdered sugar, and cherries. There is a variety of things you can have it with: nuts, chocolate, and coconut are but a few of the choices.