Kuwait, an Arab country on the Persian Gulf, shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Kuwait has a population of 4.2 million people, of which 1.3 million are Kuwaitis and 2.9 million are expatriates. Kuwait City, the capital, is known for its modern architecture, ranging from skyscrapers to the striking Kuwait Water Towers, regarded as a landmark and symbol of modern Kuwait.
Oil reserves were discovered in 1938 and are now the world’s sixth largest. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. Petroleum accounts for half of GDP and 90% of government income. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world.
Kuwait is the only country in the world with no natural water supply from lakes or reservoirs. It uses wells and performs desalination of sea water for drinking and other purposes. It opened its first grass golf course in 2005, The Sahara Golf & Country Club.
Popular dishes in Kuwaiti cuisine include Firga’a (rice cooked with tomatoes, potatoes and aubergine), Jireesh (cooked spelt with chicken or lamb, tomatoes and spices), Mutabbaq samak (fish served over rice) and Balaleet (sweet saffron noodles). I made Gers ogaily (Kuwaiti perfume cake) which we weren’t too taken with. The ‘perfume’ factor created a bit of a strange taste. Mum and Dad thought it was quite nice.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 – 50 minutes
2 cups plain flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp saffron
1 tbsp sugar
1 ½ cup caster sugar
½ cup (113 g) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (250 ml) milk, room temperature
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp rosewater
Preheat oven to 180°c
Butter and flour the sides and bottom of a 9” springform cake tin and set aside
In the mortar, crush the saffron threads with 1 tsp of sugar until it’s a powder
Add 2 tablespoons milk to saffron powder and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and two tablespoons sesame seeds. Set aside
In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and sugar until light and thick and frothy. The mixture should triple in the volume. About 10 – 12 minutes on medium to high speed
In a large measuring cup, combine the butter, milk, cardamom, rosewater and saffron mixture
Using a large slotted metal spoon (or a wooden spoon), gently fold in the dry and wet ingredients into the eggs, beginning and ending with flour. Fold from top to bottom until combined.
Pour into the prepared cake tin. Sprinkle with sesame seeds
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle come out clean and the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin
Cool completely on a wire rack and serve with tea or coffee