I blame my mother for my impeccable and insatiable taste for all things sweet. You see when all my friends were eating store-bought desserts, my house was always filled with my mom’s home-made desserts. When all my friends were enjoying “simple”, unpretentious Lebanese sweets, I was turning my nose up at them because my mother was making dainty French fruit tarts and delicate pastries. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Arabic sweets as much as the next person but I preferred the lovely French beauties we had at home at all times.
My mother never baked any Arabic desserts at home and nammoura was no exception. The only time we had this lovely semolina cake in the house was when someone made us some or when my father bought some. I didn’t appreciate these “simpler” desserts until I was a bit older and as I was making this one just yesterday, I was reflecting on the simplicity of it. One can’t help but wonder about the history behind these delicious “peasant” desserts where necessity was most probably the mother of these inventions. People had to create recipes with what they had on hand and in this case for example, semolina, yogurt and sugar were used to create a beautifully simple yet absolutely delicious dessert.
There are a lot of very different nammoura recipes out there but my go-to book for anything Lebanese is always Anissa Helou‘s Lebanese Cuisine. It is an absolute treasure chest of traditional Lebanese recipes and it’s where I found this one. I made very slight adjustments and added the measurements in grams.
Nammoura or Lebanese semolina cake
- 1 recipes sugar syrup (recipe follows)
- 1 1/2 cups (285g) semolina
- 7 tablespoons (100g) softened unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (60g) golden superfine sugar (I used white sugar)
- 1 1/2 cups (425g) yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon tahini to grease the baking dish (you can also use butter)
- 1/3 cup blanched whole almonds*
- Prepare the sugar syrup and let it cool.
- Mix the semolina, softened butter and sugar with your hands until well blended. Add the yogurt and baking soda and mix well until you get a firm batter.
- Grease an 8 1/2″ x 12 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ baking dish with the tahini then spread the batter evenly and flatten with a spoon. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 3 hours (the semolina needs time to absorb the yogurt).
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Score the uncooked cake into 2-inch squares and press one blanched almond in the center of each square. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden.
- Take out of the oven and pour the cooled syrup all over the cake. Leave to soak up the syrup (it might take up to an hour but the syrup will eventually be soaked up).
- Serve at room temperature. The nammoura will keep up to a week in an air-tight container.
Sugar syrup recipe:
- 18 oz. white sugar
- 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rose water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons orange blossom water
Place the sugar, water and lemon juice over medium heat and bring to the boil, occasionally stirring the mixture. Boil for 3 minutes then add the rose water and the orange blossom water and boil for a few more seconds. Let it cool. You can store this syrup in a jar in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
*To blanch whole raw almonds, cover them in boiling water for a few seconds, drain and the peel will come off easily.
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