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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Camel milk is gaining international recognition: here are three recipes to try

With high levels of iron and calcium, as well as vitamins B and C, and suitable for those who are intolerant to lactose where can you go wrong?

Baklava with camel milk ice cream courtesy Ruya
Baklava with camel milk ice cream courtesy Ruya

It seems that the Bedouins really were on to something. Camel milk, the sustaining, wholesome drink that has been consumed throughout the Middle East for thousands of years, is finally getting some international recognition.

Of course, camel milk is nothing new for those of us living in the UAE; we’ve long been able to buy it from the ­supermarket and are au fait with ordering lattes with a camel-­milk base or even treating ourselves to a camelccino when we visit Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace.

Recently, though, the benefits of camel milk have been ­gaining wider traction. At the tail end of last year, major United Kingdom-based supermarket Asda announced that it would be stocking Camelicious camel milk in selected stores. There’s been plenty of chatter about the ingredient on social media, too, with bloggers highlighting it as a trend for 2018 (with her marketing team ahead of the game as ever, Kim Kardashian was an early convert to the drink, tweeting her appreciation back in 2012).

Whether it’s a true superfood or just the latest super-fad, camel milk does boast some impressive credentials: it contains high levels of iron and calcium, as well as vitamins B and C, is lower in fat and cholesterol than cow’s milk, and is also suitable for those who are intolerant to lactose.

What all this means is that, if you want to stay ahead of the culinary curve, it’s time to start cooking with camel milk, as well as consuming it. Colin Clague, the executive chef at Ruya, the contemporary Turkish restaurant at Grosvenor House in Dubai, is already a big fan. For the 46th UAE National Day, the restaurant introduced a limited-edition dish featuring baklava and camel-milk ice cream, and Clague says that he often cooks with the ingredient. “In the restaurant, we’ve used camel milk to make various ice creams that we serve with different desserts. The very particular taste of camel milk adds to ice-cream flavours, and goes well with an array of different sweets.”

On a more personal level, his youngest son suffered from a series of allergies, which meant that for two years he avoided cow’s milk and drank camel milk instead. Given the choice, he still favours the latter today.

Clague says that camel milk is particularly good for making rice pudding and milk-based desserts such as panna cotta and ice cream. Flavour-wise, caramel complements the light, salty aftertaste of the milk, and chocolate is a good match too. This is an opinion shared by Kathy Johnston, the chief chocolate officer at Dubai-based company Mirzam Chocolate, which specialises in small-scale, bean-to-bar chocolate-making. Johnston confides that producing a chocolate bar using camel milk was always on the agenda for the young company: “It’s a really important part of the craft-chocolate movement to utilise locally available ingredients, and also to be able to share the story of that ingredient,” she explains. As a result, in November last year, Mirzam revealed its 55 per cent spiced camel-milk bar packaged in a wrapper featuring Sheikha Wafa bint Hasher Al Maktoum’s well-known camel tessellation pattern.

When cooking with camel milk at home, Johnston recommends experimenting a little: “The flavour can vary depending on the quality or type of feed that the animals are given – I suggest that you try different brands of milk to find the one that suits your taste profile best.” She adds that the salty, ever-so-slightly sour taste goes well with Arabian flavours, such as the saffron and cardamom that Mirzam infused its camel-milk bar with. Why not try these three recipes and see if you agree?

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Spiced camel milk hot chocolate
Spiced camel milk hot chocolate

Spiced camel-milk hot chocolate (Makes 2 cups)

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

450ml camel milk

1 cinnamon stick, broken

6 cloves

2 star anise

200g dark chocolate or dark camel-milk chocolate, broken into pieces

2tbsp demerara sugar

Whipped cream, to serve

Ground cinnamon, to serve (both optional)

Method

Put the camel milk, cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise in a saucepan set over a medium-low heat. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, making sure the milk doesn’t come to the boil. Increase the heat slightly, then add the dark camel-milk chocolate and sugar. Continue to heat, whisking often, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy. Strain through a fine sieve into two cups, discarding the spices. Top with whipped cream and dust with ground cinnamon for added flavour if you prefer.

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Camel milk rice pudding with pistachio praline 2
Camel milk rice pudding with pistachio praline

Camel-milk rice pudding with crunchy pistachio praline (Serves 4)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients

60g shelled pistachio nuts

100g caster sugar

120g pudding rice

450ml camel milk

1 vanilla pod, split to separate its seeds

¼tsp ground cinnamon

2 star anise

2 cardamom pods

200ml single cream

30g soft brown sugar

2tbsp golden raisins

Zest of 1 orange

Method

To make the pistachio praline, line a baking tray with lightly oiled baking paper. Put the caster sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and leave to dissolve without stirring. Add the pistachios and pour the mixture onto the baking tray. Leave to cool completely, then break into shards. Put the rice, camel milk, the seeds from the vanilla pod and the cinnamon, star anise and cardamom in a saucepan set over a medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, for 25 minutes. Add the cream and sugar, and continue to cook for 30 minutes more, or until the rice is tender.

Divide the rice among bowls and top with pistachio praline. Sprinkle over the orange zest and raisins and serve.

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Cheddar and camel milk cornbread
Cheddar and camel milk cornbread

Cheddar and camel-milk cornbread (Makes 1 loaf)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

90g butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing

4 spring onions, finely sliced

150g Cheddar cheese, grated

200g canned sweetcorn

220g cornmeal

80g self-raising flour

1tbsp caster sugar

400ml camel milk

2 eggs, beaten

Labneh, to serve (optional)

Sumac, to serve (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 1800C, gas mark 4. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Set a saucepan with 1 table­spoon butter over medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until softened. Leave to cool. Put the cheese, sweetcorn, cornmeal, self-raising flour, sugar and spring onions in a large bowl. Season and mix everything together.

Whisk together the remaining melted butter, camel milk and eggs. Gradually pour the liquid into the bowl containing all the dry ingredients, mixing until combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake for about 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve sliced and spread with labneh and a sprinkle of sumac.

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Read more:

Here are all of the restaurants and cafes you'll find at Al Seef on Dubai Creek

How to choose a child-friendly restaurant in the UAE

There is now a floating food 'truck' in Dubai

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