Growing up in the South we eat a lot of simple foods like meat (that we usually catch), vegetable’s (that we grow), breads (that we bake) and soups. It was never a problem for me to adapt to the way Saudis eat because a lot of it is pretty close to the things we eat back home. Honey is also a huge product found in Saudi dishes because of its relevance in Islam. We even had bees and my grandfather would make our own honey, so honey has always been a personal favorite of mine. When I first tried sweet sabeeb (an old Najdi and Southern recipe) I was in love. Sweet sabeeb is village brown bread topped with honey. In Southern Saudi all the bread is wheat unlike here in central Saudi where it’s usually white.
Last week when we were out having breakfast with all of our family at a traditional restaurant I had the pleasure of trying another Southern favorite called areeka. Oh how I fell in love! Hands down this one of the best dishes that I have had here and the perfect flavors that I love combined. Wheat bread is baked, chopped and then fresh honey is drizzled with a beautiful golden honeycomb in the middle with big brown luscious dates. These are both breakfast foods in Saudi but you can also make them for a sweet snack that goes perfect alongside a cup of hot Saudi coffee balancing out sweetness. Here is the Saudis recipe for areeka.
3 cups wheat flour
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. In a large mixing bowl add flour, salt and oil. Add water a little at a time until a dough consistency forms. Knead and cover for 30 miuntes in a warm place to rise.
2. On a greased cookie sheet spread dough until 1 cm thickness. Bake until bread is golden. 10-20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
1/2 cup melted butter or ghee
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup honey
1. Chop bread into small pieces or grind. Add into a medium sized bowl, add butter and mix well.
2. Add cardamom and honey, mix well. Add dates and place in prepared plate and serve.
* You can also add 1/4 sugar instead of the honey. You can add roasted nuts as well.