By Sally Prosser: With the Holy Month of Ramadan arriving, most of us, whether we participate in fasting or not, will accept at least one invitation to an Iftar or communal gathering. I’m always keen to show my appreciation when someone has extended his/her generous hospitality. There’s often the dilemma too about what to give to your friends, family or co-workers to mark the occasion. For a really special gift, a bit of advance planning is in order but it’s totally worth it. Here’s a round-up of some of my favourite edible gifts available in the UAE, all fully road-tested of course.
Healthy or indulgent, nutritious or sinful ~ how do you want your edible gifts to be?
Date is the obvious choice with so much ritual and tradition dedicated to this precious fruit and is also mentioned twenty times in the Holy Qur’an. Dates are highly nutritional with negligible fat and no cholesterol, packed full of potassium for growth and muscle building, magnesium to help regulate blood pressure, and provide a slow release energy boost. Bateel are specialists in dates and have a whole range of presentation sets but my favourite is this silver box inscribed with a Ramadan greeting containing dates stuffed with dried fruits and nuts.
Bateel has branches throughout the Emirates and an online store at www.bateel.com
Team FoodeMag’s market loot: Fresh dates from the supermarket aisles if you haven’t been lucky enough to pick from the many date trees lining the Dubai streets (Note: there’s a permitted time period and season when one can actually pick from these trees, otherwise its not wise to do so)! There are too many varieties of dates available here and is sourced from different countries across the region. We love the idea of a bouquet basket filled with date products – Sparkling Date Drinks, date orange jams, date syrups etc. And coming from the same parent company as Bateel’s is Jomara, a supermarket brand which was introduced in 2007 and is sold over the counters and offers over twenty varieties of dates including the famed Kholas, Sokari, Madjool and the khidri and a wide range of date products that can go into our fancy ‘Date’ bouquet basket.
Indulgent edible gifts – Supermarket aisles are packed full of brightly coloured confections but not all of them are artisan chocolates. I’ve savoured the speciality chocolates of artisan chocolatiers Cocosia many times and can vouch for how divine they are. Their range for Ramadan includes chocolates with motifs including crescent moons, exquisite tiny renderings of a mosque, dates, camels and Ramadan greetings in English or Arabic calligraphy. You can order personalised chocolates too. A nice touch is to have the host’s name engraved on one (this is also perfect for teachers’ ‘Thank You’ gifts). The service is very quick and Cocosia will usually create your bespoke chocolates within 24 hours.
Cocosia is located in Al Barsha, Dubai and has an online shop at www.cocosia.ae
Team FoodeMag’s market loot: What about savouring some chocolates made with camel milk? Al Nassma is the region’s first and finest camel milk chocolates and offers a whole range – bars in several flavours: whole milk, nuts and cocoa 70% (dark), Arabia (with a mix of Arabian spices such as cardamom and cinnamon), macadamia orange and dates; Camel Caravan, with macadamia nut and honey cream filling; the finest pralines as well as their signature hollow camel figures that can be spotted in many of the kiosks at Dubai Duty Free. The ones that come encased in exquisitely carved wooden boxes make for very special gifts not only for those who are searching for unique finds in Dubai but also for those who are lactose intolerant – camel milk has shown to have many health benefits. Al Nassma chocolates are sold at The Majlis Dubai, the first camel milk cafe, or you can order Al Nassma online at www.al-nassma.com.
Gourmet edible gifts – The Sidr tree is mentioned four times in the Holy Qur’an and hence is considered sacred. The healing qualities of honey are also documented and honey made by bees foraging for nectar from the Sidr tree is particularly prized. The nutritional and health-giving properties are lessened or destroyed by heat-treatments which most commercial honeys are subjected to. The jars that line the supermarket shelves resemble honey-flavoured syrup as they have been treated in this way. It’s worth seeking out a specialist provider of raw honey for taste and nutritional benefits.
My favourite is Balqees who, work with a dedicated cooperative of beekeepers in Yemen to produce very high-quality raw honey, many from mono-floral (single source) nectar from remote areas of countryside. A single jar makes a luxurious gift, and I particularly like their fusion range especially the raw honey studded with Madagascan vanilla beans. Balqees Honey sell red velvet gift boxes all year round containing smaller jars of a few varieties, which make perfect presents at this time of year.
Balqees has honey kiosks in many locations in the UAE and you can order online at www.balqees.com
Team FoodeMag’s market loot: Greenheart Organic Farms shop in Arjan/Barsha sells jars of raw honeycomb produced by their own bees. Their honeycomb is completely untouched and pure and their website claims – ‘A thin layer of our honey can also be applied as a face mask, beats everything available in the shops!’ However, during the summer months they can only sell the pure Honey with out the Comb. You can order online at www.greenheartuae.com
When guests are in town, a visit to Wafi Gourmet is always in order to marvel at the delectable display of food especially the delicate Arabic sweets. From small boxes of handmade biscuits and baklava to lavish baskets of assorted pastries, these little morsels always get a rave reception as gifts. Not to forget the coloured marzipan in the shape of fruits usually bring big smiles to children’s faces too!
Wafi Gourmet has shops in Dubai Mall and Wafi Mall. More details on www.wafigourmet.com
Team FoodeMag’s market loot: Al Samadi Sweets, originally established in Lebanon in 1872, have their outlets in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain, and not only offers a wide range of traditional Lebanese and Arabic sweets, stiffed dried fruits but also cakes and pastries. The sweet shop is a treasure trove for the senses – huge trays filled with different types of Arabic sweets – Baklavas, thin noodles of Vermicelli studded Kunafas, or the Turkish desserts Bülbül Yuvasi prepared with baked phyllo dough having a hollow centre and stuffed with pistachios that resemble the ‘nightingale’s nest’. Other sweet bakes include different kinds of Katayefs, Mamouls and Shoaybiat with Cream. But our favourite pick here is the creamy Hilawat al Jeban dipped in sugar syrup! You can order online at www.alsamadisweets.ae
[This story has been written exclusively for FoodeMag dxb. All images provided by author excepting Wafi Gourmet]
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