Friday, July 20, 2012

Watermelon Rind Jam (Mrabbat Raggi)

مربة رقّي

Photo Nawal Nasrallah

You will be surprised how beautiful and tasty this jam will turn out to be. Its origin cannot be any humbler: watermelon rind, usually discarded after the juicy ruby melon pulp is sliced off. In other parts of the world this rind ends up being pickled, but in Iraq we transform it into a charming chunky jam, usually served with geymer (slabs of clotted cream) or butter for breakfast.

Growing up in Baghdad, I remember that marabbat raggi was also available in small tinned cans imported from Australian. It was good but it lacked the luxurious texture and the enticing aroma of the homemade jam.

Here is a recipe adapted from my cookbook Delights from the Garden of Eden:  

2 pounds watermelon rind (measure after slicing off the red pulp and the green hard outer skin)
3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup honey
2 strips lemon peel or 2 small pieces of peeled fresh ginger
4 whole pods cardamom
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Cut rind into strips, about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long. Cover in cold water and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat, and simmer slowly until translucent, about 30 minutes. Drain, and reserve 3 cups of liquid.

2. In a heavy pot, completely dissolve sugar in reserved liquid. Add honey, lemon peel or ginger, and cardamom. Bring to a boil, skimming as needed. Add the drained watermelon rind, and boil gently over medium heat, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, overnight.

3. Boil pot again over medium heat until syrup thickens, about 30 minutes. Add lemon juice in the last 5 minutes. Test for doneness by putting a drop of syrup on a dry cold dish, and tilt it. If the drop does not go flat, and keeps its domed shape, it is done. Let the jam cool off completely. If wished, put the jam in a strainer to get rid of extra syrup. Store it in the refrigerator and use as needed. It will stay good for a long time.   

Photo Nawal Nasrallah