Dates, crushed Oreo biscuits and marshmallows might sound like an unorthodox combination, but having sampled one or two batheetha cubes in this particular flavour last week, I can vouch for the fact that there's something about this mix that works.
More importantly, this fusion of ingredients encapsulates the premise upon which Gourmandise, a Dubai-based sweets company founded by the Emirati mother and daughter team Sahar and Mona Abu Aisha, is based. Batheetha are traditional Emirati sweets made from date paste, flour and ghee; the addition of Oreo biscuits and marshmallows (among other ingredients) takes them in an entirely different direction.
"When we first started out, we knew that we had to be creative, to do something modern and different," explains the managing partner Mona. "We said to ourselves, we live in Dubai and Dubai is such a mix of East and West, of locals and non-locals, so let's recreate that in our in sweets; let's mix Arabic and western tastes to create something new."
She adds that through Gourmandise, both women also wanted to reach out to expatriates and encourage them to sample real Emirati sweets and desserts. "We knew that many people living in the region had never tasted traditional GCC sweets like aseeda and khabees (which are served in platters or trays at weddings and on special occasions), so we gave them a twist and presented them in a canape style."
Mona says that while she takes care of the business side of things, it is her mother, Sahar, who is responsible for dreaming up Gourmandise's many creations and devising the recipes. "My mom, she has a talent, a gift. She tastes a sweet or dessert and she knows the ingredients and how to recreate it. I told her that we had to do something about this."
As a result, four years ago Gourmandise was born. What started out as a home business supported largely by friends and associates quickly became something much more. In 2009, the company relocated to a converted villa on Al Wasl Road, which boasts a spotless kitchen and production area and several members of staff, all trained by Sahar.
This week alone, the Gourmandise team will package up 3,000 boxes of their signature Batheetha Cubes (Dh135 for a one-kilogram box) for collection or delivery to large corporate businesses and individual homes. As well as the Oreo version, other intriguing flavours and fillings include coconut, peanut butter, pistachio, digestive biscuit, aseeda, chickpeas and sesame. The sweets come presented in neat rows, with caramel and sesame dipping sauces.
Gourmandise also sets itself apart with its approach to ingredients. "From the start, we decided that everything that went into the sweets had to be wholesome. We spend money on quality ingredients and we don't use any preservatives, additives or anything artificial. That's why we're a pre-order business. Everything is cooked and made to order," explains Mona. "People did find this strange to start with, as customers are so used to being able to get things instantly, but they've accepted that we are adamant about this."
As the business continues to thrive, Gourmandise has introduced a new range of pretty, bite-sized Emirati desserts for Ramadan, which include aseeda, khabees and khanfaroosh. Rice pudding and muhalabiya have been added to their list of artfully constructed "Sweets in a Cup", joining other year-round favourites such as pistachio brûlée, Black Forest gateau, shahrazad and blueberry cheesecake, and you can also order mamoul, kunafa bites and chocolate truffles.
For more information or to place an order, call 04 345 5455 or 056 659 4366. Note that during Ramadan and Eid, Gourmandise is particularly busy and orders must be placed at least 48 hours in advance.