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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I for Iraq ~ Kurat Al-Mishmish

Event: BM #44 , Around the world (A - Z series) 
Choice of country: The Republic of Iraq
Capital City: Baghdad  
Official Language: Arabic and Kurdish

As a young child, I was fascinated by the Arabian night stories and had assumed the places mentioned in there were time frozen. I don't know what I was thinking as an elementary school kid but looking at the illustrations, I used to assume that the modern era people also lived in a Sultanate and led the same life style as the people in the stories did. The words Cairo and Baghdad were etched in my mind because of the mention of those two cities quite often in the stories that I have gone through. I even thought of visiting them once in my lifetime when I grew up but looking at the present chaotic conditions Iraq is in, I know that I can never set foot in that country. I may not go there physically but who would stop me from paying a virtual visit, right? And so I am going to Iraq for my "I" country, in search of a quick and yummy treat.

Historical tidbits for the day:
* Iraq is situated on western Asia and is often referred to as the "cradle of civilization". It is thought to be home for one of the earliest civilizations known to mankind - the Sumerian civilization which arose in the fertile region between Iraq's two major rivers, Euphrates and Tigris during Chalcolithic period or the copper age. This fertile region is also called "Mesopotamia". Sumerian civilization flourished for over 3000 years and was highly advanced and sophisticated in all fields of knowledge .
* During 4th millennium BC, the world's first writing system and recorded history were born in the same region. 
* Baghdad was built in the 8th century as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate and became the leading metropolis of the Arab and Muslim world for five centuries. It was the largest multicultural city of the Middle ages, with a population over than a million and was the center of learning during the Islamic golden age.

Culinary tidbits from Iraq:
* Did you know that the world's first recorded cookbooks come from Iraq? Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals and these are the first cookbooks of the world.
* Pistachios were a common food in the region as as early as 6750 B.C
* Among the ancient texts discovered in Iraq, there was one Sumerian - Akkadian bilingual dictionary belonging to somewhere around 1900 BC and it lists over 800 different items of food and beverages. Among them mentioned are 20 different varieties of cheese, 100 varieties of soups and 300 types of bread - each with different ingredients, filling, shape or size.
* Stew has remained a mainstay in the cuisine. A clay tablet written in 1700 BC was discovered near Baghdad and it contained 24 recipes for stews cooked with meat and vegetables using herbs and spices. 
* Iraq is the largest producer of dates.

Iraqi Cuisine:
 Iraqi cuisine or the Mesopotamian cuisine dates back to ten thousand years ago - to Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians and the Ancient Persians. Even though they had advanced culinary skills during the Mesopotamian era, Iraqi cooking reached it's zenith during the Abbasid Caliphate era (750 - 1258). The modern cuisine reflects this rich inheritance along with the culinary traditions of neighboring Iran, Turkey and Syrian regions. Meals begin with appetizers and salads – known as Mezza.
And here is an interesting read about the way the Iraqis consume their tea, a firsthand account.
Mishmish means dried apricots in Arabic and the recipe name 'kurat al-mishmish' roughly translates to apricot balls. Apricots have been cultivated in Persia since ancient times and dried ones were an important commodity on Persian trade routes. And so naturally there are apricot based dishes in the Arab world and this delightful dessert comes from the Iraq region. These colorful, yummy balls with sweet undertones of orange flavor take hardly around 10 minutes of preparation and the easiest one among the dishes so far I have tried for this marathon. I had prepared this dish sometime last month and couldn't get to the original recipe link now. I have seen recipes using even orange juice but I guess an authentic version uses orange blossom water.

Ingredients: (Makes 10 balls)
1 cup dried apricots
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp orange blossom water / grated orange rind (I used orange rind.)
2 - 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes / crushed almonds or pistachios / sesame seeds for rolling the balls
* Run apricots and coconut flakes through a food processor until well blended.
* Now add the orange blossom water / orange rind and condensed milk to the ground apricot mixture and pulse.
* Transfer the mixture from the processor on to a plate. Make small balls out of the mixture and roll them in coconut flakes or what ever you have chosen to cover them in.
* Enjoy them immediately or keep them refrigerated.



Pavani N said...

Apricot & orange combination sure sounds flavorful and amazing. Those orange balls are looking great.

Varadas Kitchen said...

Such a simple dessert! The ingredients sound refreshing and flavorful. Very good pick

Jayashree said...

I used to be a big fan of the Arabian Nights too. Such a simple and delectable dessert, Suma.
Jayashree- My Experiments with Food

Priya Suresh said...

Would love to grab and have some, those balls are so tempting.

vaishali sabnani said...

Wow.first I fell in love with the name mishmish..then it has my favourite apricot and to top no cooking ..made in a jiffy..loved it to the core. Will surely try during Diwali. Btw I called for Orange blossom water. .when I opened the bottle I didn't like the aroma but I really don't know if the after use aroma is better.

Srivalli said...

Such a flavoursome combination Suma..yes Arabian Nights were part of the growing up..I wonder why kids these days don't read that!

Kurinji said...

simple and yummy dessert....looks delicious...

Manjula Bharath said...

wow thats one alluring dessrt there, I wud just love to grab some right now :) With orange rind flavor infused it wud have tasted like a heaven :) wonderful choice dear !!

Usha said...

That is indeed a quick and easy recipe. Apricot, coconut and orange combination sounds good. Apricot balls have lovely color and quite appetizing.

Harini-Jaya R said...

That combo of apricot and orange zest sounds like heaven to me!!

Sapana Behl said...

Omg ! you re killing me with your tempting dessets. Looking so good , wish i could try some now...

Padmajha PJ said...

Enjoyed reading the culinary titbits and the dish sounds so easy and extremely temptful.

Chef Mireille said...

what a super simple recipe and love the culinary info

Gayathri Kumar said...

The recipe sounds very easy. I love apricots and always have a box of dried apricots in fridge. These balls with coconut coating looks fabulous...

Priya Srinivasan said...

such a quick dessert!! now you are making my bookmark list even more longer suma!!!! This too bookmarked,i might as well try it for diwali!! :)

Archana Potdar said...

Wow waht a delicious treat. Will love to try it out. Suma like you I too was facinated by Arabian Nights and yes wanted to visit the place. But ...
So sad we cannot do that now. As for your GK titbits love them.