The Emirati chef Khulood Atiq’s masterclass was the very first of the festival, but it was also one of the most memorable. Here is her recipe for tahta mela.
Khulood Atiq's recipe for tahta mela
1kg basmati rice, soaked
5 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamon pods
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 green chill peppers (or to taste), chopped
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp Emirati fish spices
4 loumi (dried lime), peeled and chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin power
1/2 tsp saffron
1kg al maleh (salted fish)
1/2 tsp turmeric
Cook the soaked rice in boiling water with the black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cardamon seeds and a tablespoon of ghee, until the rice is 75% cooked. Drain and set aside, adding another tablespoon of ghee to prevent the rice from sticking together.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan, add the finely chopped onions, garlic and the chillies and cook over a medium heat for 4-6 minutes, until softened but not coloured.
Add the tomatoes, Emirati fish spices, the loumi, tomato paste, cumin and coriander powder, saffron and approximately 50ml water. Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the pieces of al maleh to the pan, stirring gently to avoid breaking the fish into pieces. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for a couple more minutes.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over a medium, add the turmeric and saute for a minute or so. Aside.
Heat a final tablespoon of oil in large casserole dish, and half the rice to the pan and spread out over the base of the pan. Add the fish mixture and finish with a final layer of rice. Pour over the turmeric and oil mixture, cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes more, until the rice is fluffy.