Food for the Soul
We get together with loved ones around food, we explore new cultures by trying out their local cuisine, and we are always comforted by a home-cooked meal. This is a story of how one woman connects different parts of her identity and culture through her recipes.
They say that good food is the foundation of genuine happiness – and that could not be truer for the story I’m about to tell.
My mother wed my father – may he rest in peace – at the age of 17. She was from Riyadh and he was from Medina – and they both moved across to the Eastern Province to build a future together.
My siblings and I call our mother “the chef,” as she was and still is an outstanding cook. At the very young age of six, she slowly learned how to cook, as she observed my grandmother preparing food for gatherings; especially for weddings and Eids – and so did most of the young females in the Najd region (Central Region) back in the day. It was a part of the tradition to show and teach them how to cook for the future.
Longing for a connection
There’s an undeniable difference between Hijazi food (Western Region), where my father grew up, and Najdi food. And so, one day, my mother decided to surprise my father with his most favorite dish: Al Saleeg Al Hijazi, a white rice meal cooked with milk and broth. Even though she knew how to prepare it as she previously heard the recipe from her mother-in-law; she needed to master it. My mother called a neighbor and got all the tips and tricks to make it as perfect as it can be.
My father came back from work that day happy and surprised, as they both sat and shared this wonderful meal that brought back so many dear memories.
On the other hand, whenever my mother misses her hometown, she would cook her most favorite meal, Al Jareesh Al Najdi, a dish that mainly consists of ground wheat. Both meals have become a part of their lives as they bonded, ate, and shared precious moments together.
Al Saleeg Al Hijazi
- Your choice of chicken or beef
- 2 ½ cups of rice
- 10 Tbsp of powdered milk
- 1 butter stick
- 3 pieces of mastic
- Boil meat (chicken or beef) until well-cooked
- Drain the meat and set it in a plate
- Add rice to the broth, and add more water if needed
- Once the rice starts to melt, mix the powdered milk with a bit of water and add it to the rice
- Melt the butter in a separate pan, and then add it to the rice. Add salt as needed
- Once fully cooked, pour the Saleeg into a flat dish, and add the chicken or beef on top
Al Jareesh Al Najdi
- 2 cups jareesh
- ½ cup of rice
- 1 medium-sized onion
- 4 yogurts
- 1 butter stick
- Lemon salt
- 1 Tbsp oil
- Some salt
- 2 onions
- ½ butter stick
- 1 Tsp mixed spices of your choosing
- 1 Tsp of cinnamon
- 1 Tsp of grounded black lemon
- In a pot, add oil and diced onions – simmer until it’s cooked without changing its color
- Add the jareesh and rice, and enough water that covers them
- Leave to cook on low, add more water if needed
- Once the jareesh and rice are cooked, add yogurt. Continue to cook on low
- Add salt, half a stick of butter, and lemon salt to add some sour taste
- Leave on low until it is fully cooked
- Serve, add the topping, and enjoy!