Sawsan Abu Farha
I would like to share with you an amazing Egyptian dessert, known as Um Ali Dessert, a heavenly combination of creamy bread pudding and cinnamon-nut-stuffed baklava. It is a wonderful treat warm out of the oven or cold out of the fridge. The peculiar name has a story, or maybe even stories, behind it.
Legend has it that Om Ali was the first wife of the Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. In Egypt, women were not allowed to rule, but were permitted to be guardians to their sons who would become king when they came of age. When the sultan died, his second wife had a dispute with Om Ali over whose son would be the successor to the sultan. The second wife was heavily guarded, making it difficult for Om Ali to get rid of her.
Om Ali hatched a plot to bribe the second wife’s handmaids. While the second wife went to the hamam for a bath, she was beaten to death, by slippers, by her own handmaids! To celebrate her death, Om Ali made this dessert and distributed it among the people of the land.
Another (less violent) story again involves a sultan, who started to feel peckish during a hunting trip in the Nile delta. The hunting party stopped for food at a poor village along the way and the locals called upon their best cook, Umm'Ali, to feed the hungry monarch. She filled a large pan with the little they had — scrapings of stale wheat flakes with bits of nuts — and put it in the oven together with milk and sugar. It was so well received that the sultan went back again and thus the dessert became known by its creator.
Whichever story you choose to believe, this dessert is worth trying.