Recipe: Ali’s Mother (Umm Ali)

Serves 6

Egyptians have been eating Um Ali for hundreds of years. Clifford A. Wright tells the story well:

One day while hunting in the Nile delta, the sultan developed a ravenous appetite and stopped in a small village. The peasants wished to please the sultan, so the best cook of the village, Umm Ali, pulled out a special pan and filled it with the only ingredients she had around: some dried wheat flakes, sultanas [raisins], nuts, and coconut. She covered it with sugar and milk and put it in the village’s oven.

Excerpt from A Mediterranean Feast

As simple as can be, this sweet, milky blend of pastry, nuts, raisins, and coconut flakes will be a distinct addition to your Egyptian Global Table.


1 sheet of puff pastry, baked
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup coconut chips (or 1/8 cup shredded coconut)
1/8 cup sugar

1 cup whole milk
1 cup half and half


Bake the puff pastry according to package directions. It will turn into a giant, greasy pillow. Try not to lay your head on it.

Once cool (and, ideally, stale brittle and dried out), break the pastry up into small pieces and put in a 2 quart casserole.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Toss on the raisins…

… the slivered almonds (feel free to use pistachios if you’d like)

… and coconut chips (aren’t they beautiful?)

Dust with sugar and drizzle on the half and half and milk. Be sure to spread it evenly over the entire casserole.

Bake until the milk is bubbling and the top is browned. This could be anywhere from 15-20 minutes and will depend on how dry your pastry is, how browned it got in the first cooking and so forth. Just keep a keen eye on it.

Serve hot… on a cold day.
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  1. I met Ali’s mother and she’s a great cook!

    About 15 years ago, this guy Ali ran a little Egyptian restaurant on Steinway Street in Queens, NYC. The only one around. He cooked great food, was friendly to all, and boy could he talk about food! Name an Egyptian dish, he could trace the history back a thousand years or maybe even back to the Pharaoh’s, and then also tell you how that dish related to similar food in Syria, Morocco, etc. Once a year he brought his mother over from Alexandria to cook. His mother was a better cook than he was.

    I haven’t been back there in years but I ‘ve heard the place is still thriving. There are now about 15 Egyptian restaurants in the area.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Sounds like it would have been worth it to hang around until his mom was in town! Mama’s cooking is always best! :)

  2. YUM!


  1. […] two great recipes are the best for this easy to make and scrumptious dessert. The first one by Global Table is the more traditional version using puff pastry and includes step by step instructions with […]

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