Eid Mubarak to everyone! I hope everyone had a lovely Eid-Al-Fitr to celebrate the end of a month of fasting. Where I am at we were fasting nearly 20 hours!
So now with the end of Ramadan, everyone is left with a challenge. What to do with the left-over dates? Since Muslims break their fast with a date, during the weeks preceding Ramadan in the Middle-East and Muslim world shops are filled with dates. Dates from all over the world such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia…each has its own flavor and unique taste. My personal favorite is the plump, sweet, and dense Medjool date. However this year I regularly bought Algerian dates, as these predominate in Europe. These are less dense and actually sweeter in flavor compared to Medjool dates.
For me there is no challenge in finishing up the large boxes of dates I excitedly bought at the beginning of Ramadan, as well as the various boxes I received as gifts. Dates are one of my favorite foods; I am amazed by how something so natural can be so satisfying and delicious. However, for those of you who have gotten a bit tired of dates, I have a few variations on dates that can take a simple fruit and turn it into a lovely summer dessert.
Qaimakh is a thick clotted cream made in Afghanistan. It involves a long, tedious process. Basically you bring whole milk to a low boil, and you continuously gather the top foamed part, which you can even later strain through a cheese cloth and refrigerate for about twenty-four hours to thicken. That makes Qaimakh, in its most natural form. This is a nice project to undertake on a winter afternoon, when you are relaxing at home.
But for summer I like to use an alternative recipe, which I somehow came up with years ago. One winter, while in college I was going through a food-craze. I spent my whole winter break in my parent’s kitchen trying to make a “short-cut” recipe for Qaimakh. My mom, preferring traditional-methods, consistently chided me that no short-cut would work. In reality I think she found it challenging to resist sampling all of my “experiments” and given the high-fat content of Qaimakh this was a problem for my figure-conscious mother…however needless to say the rest of my family enjoyed these experiements. But I actually discovered a great recipe, that I think is best for dishes with Qaimakh in the summer, when I do not have the willpower to stand over a pot of steaming milk for a few hours. However in the winter, homemade Qaimaikh is definitely a much needed treat.
The alternative was based on an idea I had heard that if one used high-fat milk and lemon, the “clotting” affect could be achieved faster. I heard this from some of the Afghan Khala’s (my mom’s friends and female relatives). So I tried this method, however it consistently failed with just regular milk. So I cheated a bit, and used Whole Cream, which produced a great result. However I was happy to find that I could use an equal ratio of Whole Cream and Half-n-Half to achieve the same clotting affect, but reduce the fat content. Because really Qaimakh is unique in that it makes a rich, creamy product, simply using milk as opposed to cream.
Traditional Afghan Qaimakh:
-1 Gallon Whole Milk (Preferably Raw Full Fat Milk or as a second-choice Organic)
1) In a large pot, slowly bring to a boil the milk
2) Once it has come to a boil, gently pour into a shallow pan and let milk cool for about an hour or longer. The milk should start clotting at the top.
3) With a straining ladle, gently gather the clots and pour into cheesecloth.
4) Repeat the same steps with remaining milk, you may be able to get more clotted cream with the remaining milk. This depends on the fat content of the milk.
5) Once you have gathered all of the clotted cream strain through cheesecloth in the fridge overnight.
Summer Qaimakh Recipe
Equal Parts of Whole Milk and Cream/Half-N-Half
-8 cups (1/2 Gallon) of Whole Milk (Raw or Organic)
-4 Cups Half and Half
-4 Cups Whole Cream
-3-4 teaspoons of Lemon Juice
1) In a large pot slowly bring to boil the milk, Half-and-Half, and Whole Cream.
2) Once milk is boiling, add the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the milk cool, as the clotted cream begins to form at the surface of the milk.
3) Using a straining ladle gather the clotted cream from the surface.
4) Once you have gathered all of the clotted cream strain through cheesecloth in the fridge overnight.
6) Next morning you will have fresh clotted cream.
Qaimakh Stuffed Dates:
1) With a sharp fruit knife, gentle pit the dates vertically.
2) Scoop some of the clotted cream into a small Zip-Lock bag, cut a slit in a corner of the bag and pipe the clotted cream filling into each date.
3) Garnish each date with a raw almond or walnut.
4) Refrigerate until ready to serve.