On special occasions when I visit my home village in the governorate of Daqahliya, in the heart of Egypt's countryside, it is the creamy, oven-baked dishes of roz muammar that take pride of place on the table.
Roz muammar literally translated means "rich rice", with the word muammar denoting generousity, wealth and abundance.
Roz muammar's combination of rice, fresh cream, milk and a dab of samn (ghee) make this dish one of the Egyptian Delta region's favourite specialities.
It is a luxurious evolution of regular cooked rice, which in its turn is a staple of Egyptian culinary culture.
(Photo: Courtesy of Egyptian Foodies Facebook page)
Rice was not known in Ancient Egypt. There are indications that it was probably introduced to Egypt and the surrounding region, through the expeditions of Alexander the Great who imported the grain from India in the 4th century BC.
Today the rice yield per feddan in Egypt's Delta region is among the highest in the region. Rice for the Egyptian farmer is one of the most important staple crops that he grows and sells for a good profit in the market.
It is planted in October and harvested in the months of May and June.
Rice is also stored for yearly household consumption from one rice season to the next.
And while the Egyptian farmer's repast has traditionally been quite frugal, constituted of corn bread, old cheese and pulses, over the past four decades rice has become a culinary mainstay of the rural household.
But even in the days of frugality, roz muammar was always a traditional treat. The ingredients needed for its preparation are readily available in farmers' houses, the majority of whom breed cows, and process milk into cottage cheese, butter and fresh cream.
(Photo: Courtesy of Tajoury Oriental Restaurant Facebook page)
Roz muammar, which is typically cooked and served in a clay dish called a beram, is characterised by a subtle smoked taste resulting from the oven-induced burning of its outer cream crust.
Due to increasing urbanization, women in the Egyptian countryside now cook on gas stoves or ovens, but when it comes to roz muammar, the traditional clay oven is still used.
Straw and wood are used as fuel in clay ovens, which are usually built in an outer yard of the house.
Elaborate new recipes of roz muammar that include meat or poulty are not typical Egyptian dishes, but rather a derivative of Arab and Gulf-style cooking
Below is a modification of the traditional Egyptian roz muammar recipe that uses samn as well as fresh cream, in addition to full milk.
For those who prefer a lighter version, the recipe reduces the amount of milk and omits the samn/ghee.
Two 8oz cups short-grain Egyptian rice
One 8oz cup full-cream milk
One 8oz cup water
250 grams fresh cream
1 tablespoon salt
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
In a glazed clay or glass oven dish, blend the rice and salt well.
Add the cold milk and water to the rice.
Add the cream on top of the mixture without blending.
Place the dish uncovered in the oven.
When the rice absorbs the liquid and the crust begins to brown, slightly reduce the heat and cover the dish until the rice is done.
Total cooking time is 45 minutes.