Fall Favorites

While it might be too early for chestnuts and candy canes, it’s not too soon to welcome autumn, and the little delights that accompany it. Granted, here in Jordan, fall is a little later, a little shorter, and a little warmer than in other places, but it is still a well-appreciated break from the summer. After a few months of temperatures topping 120 F, days in the 70s and 80s seem nippy.

I kicked off the fall season by making a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies, a treat I had almost forgotten about over the past couple of years. While the aroma of fresh cookies floated through the house, I began thinking of other fall treats I’ve looked forward to each year ever since I was a young child… apple cider, tea and hot chocolate, rainy days, warm snuggles and maybe a pie or two.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve also begun associating something else with the fall: a boiled wheat desert called “ameh” (pronounced with a hard “h,” unique to the Arabic language, at the end). Warm and filling, ameh is popular here in the Middle East, especially during the cold seasons, and makes a great evening or bedtime snack. It might take a try to two before you find the consistency of the wheat that you like best, but the basic process of cooking ameh is very simple.

  1. Soak a portion of whole wheat kernels in water over night. Neglecting this step could add several hours to the cooking time the next day, as I discovered the first time I made this dish. Use at least 2 cups of wheat to have enough ameh to serve several people, or to have some left over for the next day.
  2. Boil the wheat in water. You’ll need to put approximately four times the amount water as wheat in the pot, so if you’re cooking 2 cups of wheat, use add about 8 cups of water. If you have a metal tea strainer, fill it with whole anise seeds and boil it along with the wheat for additional flavor. Use about 2 spoons of anise for every cup of wheat. If you don’t have a tea strainer, make a cup of potent anise tea, and add it to the wheat when it has almost finished cooking.
  3. Boil the wheat until the kernals have popped open, softened, and expanded to two or three times their original size.  Depending on the type wheat you use, this will probably take 1 ½ – 2 hours. Check the pot periodically to make sure the water doesn’t boil away. The appearance and consistency of the finished pot of wheat will somewhat resemble oatmeal, although the wheat might remain a little firmer.
  4. Serve the ameh hot. Dish it into bowls. Add one or two spoonfuls of honey or sugar to each bowl. Add a touch of rose water if it is available (check the baking aisle or international food aisle of your local grocery store). Sprinkle almonds, walnuts and raisins on the top, and enjoy!

Wherever you are, and whether your days are in the 50s or 70s, wet or dry, I hope you’re having a wonderful autumn, enjoying the fall treats you like best, and thanking the dear Lord for the wonderful variety of the seasons, and the unique beauty each one brings!

“There is no season such delight can bring,

As summer, autumn, winter and the spring.”

William Browne

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