Deepest of all in her personality was the golden radiance that she diffused around her. As an open fire in a dark room throws romance and pathos into the quiet faces at its edge, so she cast her lights and shadows around the rooms that held her.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
It’s been weeks, maybe even months by now. The beginning of this year seems like it happened yesterday and yet it’s already March. My latest post about a trip to wintery Melgaarden seems like a lifetime ago. Between now and then, there are just three months but the glaring desert sun. My life has changed. We moved to Dubai. Away from the European winter and right into the Emirati spring. The weather is perfect. It reminds me of Italian summers. Dry air, a warm wind and sunshine all day long. I’ve been warned to enjoy this time of the year because the heat and with it the humidity is coming sooner than later. I don’t like to think about it much, I just like to explore a city that seems to be misunderstood and misrepresented.
Moving to Dubai hasn’t been the easiest choice for the obvious reasons. Too hot in summer, too many shopping malls, too much sand, too far away from Europe, too little historic monuments (or as some say no culture, but I’ll talk about that in a second). My mental list of things that I don’t like about Dubai or at least thought I wouldn’t like is probably endless. And yet here I am, two and a half months later and I think Dubai is a great place to live. A French cottage in the South of France wouldn’t be bad either or a quirky apartment in Rome. But that’s another dream, another period in my life that will happen one day. Right now, it’s all about enjoying what’s in front of me. And in the end, I wasn’t so wrong about my prejudices. There is a lot of sand in front of me, around me, under me, in my kitchen, on our bathroom floor.
Dubai’s desert is all present. It’s good and it’s not so good sides. But most importantly, it’s its beautiful side that I have learned to love so much. There is just something so calming and relaxing about spending the evening on top of sand dunes. Nothing to see and nothing to hear other than the vastness and quietness of the desert. It’s magical. It’s emotional. And most of all, it’s inspiring. It makes me want to create, go out, explore, take photos. I’ve long contemplated what my first recipe post in Dubai would be about. Maybe a little too long. But here I am. With an Emirati recipe. Which is as golden and wonderful as the desert during sunset. Emirati saffron cardamom pancakes, or also called Chebab. Topped with coconut yoghurt, date syrup and slivered pistachios.
Finding an Emirati recipe wasn’t easy at all. It’s not like the cuisine from the UAE is as known and celebrated as French or Italian food. And yet, as the UAE is part of the Lower Gulf region, it bursts with intense flavours and vibrant colours and unexpected textures. Like this saffron pancake recipe. The yeast creates bubbles which makes the pancakes fluffy and light. The saffron adds colour and an almost exotic but certainly decadent taste. And the turmeric, cardamom and fennel seeds round of every bite.
Emirati Saffron Cardamom Pancakes (Chebab)
- 250 g / 2 cups organic white flour
- 15 g / one heaped tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp dried yeast
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp cardamon powder
- 0.25 – 0.05 g saffron
- optional: 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 250 ml / 2 cups lukewarm water
- 15 g / one heaped tbsp coconut sugar
- Coconut yoghurt, date syrup and slivered pistachios for serving
- 50 g / 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- Start by mixing lukewarm water with sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle with yeast. Set aside and wait for 10 min or until you see some foam on the surface. That means your yeast is activated and ready to go.
- In a separate bowl mix all the dry and slowly and gradually add first the water-yeast-sugar mixture and applesauce. Whisk for about 5 min (I suggest to use a hand mixer) until you have a smooth pancake-like batter, showing some bubbles on the surface.
- Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it sit for 45 min.
- Heat a pan over medium to high heat, brush some coconut oil on it. Use a bigger ladle or measuring cup and pour 1/2 cup of batter into the pan and spread it. Wait for a minute or 2 before flipping the pancakes. (I recommend to turn the heat down a little after the first round and flip the pancakes as soon as they are solid to keep that nice yellow color).
- Serve with coconut yoghurt, date syrup and slivered pistachios.