Have you ever looked back at old photos of yourself and thought "I don't remember that". I always do. To be fair, they are pictures of me at about 4 or 5 years old so I would be really surprised if I remembered much from that age. But it's really strange what sticks. Like the time me and my brother were messing around and I sprayed him in the face with perfume. Yea, he didn't really enjoy that.
I do remember the first time I saw snow. Like, enough snow to play in. We were on the Isle of Wight for Christmas and me, my brother and my aunt went outside all wrapped up and started throwing snowballs at the window. I don't know if it was a lot of snow, but to me at that age and having never seen snow before, it seemed like a lot. Then we went inside and had hot chocolate to warm up.
I don't know about you, but most of my childhood memories involve food. Even now, when I go to different family members' houses to eat, whatever they make sparks a memory. I don't even have to be the one eating! For example, we were in Dubai one weekend and went to visit my cousins in Sharjah - this was only a few years ago. My cousin was feeding her little girl a dish called sha'ariyya (it means hairy in Arabic, by the way) and it was everything I could do not to steal some off her plate. I could just remember the taste and texture of it and I immediately got nostalgic. Now, my mum and dad never made us sha'ariyya. But my aunt did. If we were ever being babysat, it was an easy dinner or breakfast to make for children. Also, it has delicious crystals of sugar in it that crunch when you bite down.
I never said it was healthy. I mean, that's why kids love it. I have made it a couple of times since and traditionally, it's a relatively dry dish. But I find I quite like it a bit porridgey - if you know what I mean. Not swimming in milk but not so dry that you can separate the strands of vermicelli with a fork. A bit like porridge, it's great to have on a chilly, grey morning. You can top it with whatever you want, or you don't have to top it with anything. Almonds and pistachios are a good option. Fruit is also a good one. I like caramelised mandarins. They're seasonal for the weather I'd eat sha'ariyya in and they have a nice almost burnt caramel taste to them against the sugar.
100g broken up vermicelli noodles
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 mandarin, segmented
Lay the mandarin segments in a cold, dry frying pan. Put the pan on a medium heat. When you hear the mandarins start to sizzle, use tongs to turn them over and cook them on the other side. Take them out of the pan when they're nicely caramelised before they burn.
Put a small saucepan on the heat and add the vermicelli noodles. Once half of the vermicelli is a nice toasted colour, add the sugars and cinnamon and slowly add the milk, stirring all the while. If you stop stirring, you may have a sticky bottom of your pot. Add as much milk as you like - I used all the 250ml. Take the pasta past the al dente stage and when you're happy with the milk content, serve it up in your favourite bowl.
Top the sha'ariyya with the mandarin segments and, if you like, sprinkle over some caster sugar for that teeth crunching texture.