Lauren of Arabia
J’adore Morocco, the heat, the people, the beauty, the adventures into the Sahara and camping out under the stars. The food and desserts are amazing. I ate many a tagine and honey soaked sweets when we visited Marrakesh.
into the desert we go
Having purchased the worlds largest bag of semolina I needed a recipe to put it to good use. I have vaguely horrific memories of semolina pudding every day for as part of of our school dinners and me disliking it so much I pretended to sneeze into my bowl so I could have it removed. But the dinner nannies soon wised up to my rouse and refused to let me get away with refusing semolina.
Thankfully my taste palette has refined somewhat since I was 6years old. I now even eat peas and broccoli!
Basboosa all lined up and ready to go
Basboosa is a middle Eastern dessert and seems to be from Morocco and Egypt too. It reminds me of Baklava which I love and you may remember me attempting to make from scratch…
Thankfully Basboosa doesn’t involve the shelling of hundreds of pistachios or the creation of millions of layers of paper thin filo pastry! This is one quick bake the I will be definitely repeating in the future!
Sugar and water to bubble into a syrup
I began with the syrup. Unfortunately I didn’t have an orange flower water so I ad libbed and utilised the lemon and orange extracts I have in my cupboard. I think rose water would work just as well too.
The key to this bake is sugar. And LOTS of it. The syrup requires a lot of simmering to reduce it to about 2 cups worth but it still seemed very watery to me. I put faith in my Marks and Spencer recipe and hoped for the best.
1 KG of semolina!!!
While the pan bubbled merrily on the stove I measured out 1kilogram (yes 1 KG!) of ground semolina! (I checked about 4 times that I had read this right as it seems like a massive amount and just about fitted into my biggest mixing bowl!
Precariously full bowl of sandy semolina
Adding in the sugar the mixing bowl was precariously full and could only be mixed with my bare hands, a spoon would just have tipped things over the edge completely!
Butter and milk on the stove
Then to gently warm the milk and butter on the stove until the butter melts completely.
Thoroughly melted butter and milk
Once it’s thoroughly melted (and hopefully a little less frothy than mine) it’s ready to add to the semolina. This was a delicate process. There didn’t seem to be enough liquid to bring the dry semolina and sugar together into a paste at all.
Bind us together – oh butter sugar and semolina
Nevertheless I perservered and gingerly (the milk was a bit hot) took to mixing it by hand again until lo and behold I had a semolina paste!
Tipping the bowl upside down into my greased and lined deep baking dish the semolina required a little coaxing to flatten it out completely into all the corners.
bowl shaped semolina paste – into the tray you go
Once it was relatively flat I smoothed the surface with a wet hand and squashed it down into the tin to avoid any bubbles or gaps in the bake.
Flattened and smoothed semolina
Taking the syrup off the stove (I added a dash more orange extract as I realised I had added it too early and it may have mostly evaporated…) popped it into the fridge to chill it, ready for it’s next job.
Syrupy and ready for a good chilling
With a sharp unserated knife I attempted to score the semolina into equally sized diamond shapes (this befuddled my brain somewhat so I ended up with all sorts of shapes and sizes).
Zig zags in the semolina (supposedly diamond shaped)
I popped the tray in the oven then quickly realised I forgot to pop the almonds onto each diamond! Quick as a flash I studded each piece with a blanched almond and threw it back in the oven.
Studded Semolina – check out those blanched almonds (better late than never)
Then a cup of tea and a spot of Mary Poppins is all you need to do whilst the bakes for an hour and a half! (Mary Poppins is optional but it was choice du jour)
Soaked in Syrup
Once the semolina is golden brown and firm to touch it’s ready for a final slice with sharp knife and a good drowning in chilled orange syrup. I poured half of the very liquid syrup over the baked semolina and worried that it was a bit too much! It definitely required a break for absorption! Half an hour later I poured the rest of the syrup over and let the Basboosa relax and take it’s time to drink up the sweet orange flavour.
Totally soaked basboosa
Once it’s all absorbed it’s ready for eating! I REALLY loved this bake. It’s baklava-esque and shortbread-ey. Just the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. It has quite a distinctive crumbly texture which some may not enjoy, I suppose it could be a bit dry if you didn’t pour all of the syrup over it too.
But as it’s a wheat derivative it has CARBS and is full of SUGAR so this is a perfect pre run treat. (I’m now running what I had always considered to be beyond my wildest dreams… 10 miles! Who’da thunk it? Admittedly this was by accident as I got hopelessly lost one afternoon/evening but I now know that I can do it! And I now have a freezer stocked full of this sugary pick me up.)
This recipe makes a LOT of Basboosa, about 23 pieces – or more if you cut it into smaller pieces. It is very sweet so you probably don’t need a huge slice but it also keeps really well. Once the syrup crystalises it has a lovely glittery sugary crunchy top too. 🙂
I hope you like it as much as me!
Things I used to make Basboosa…
- 1 kg ground semolina
- 2 1/2 cups of sugar (550g)
- 1 cup milk (250ml)
- 125g butter
- 1/4 cup blanched almonds (40g)
- 3 cups water (750ml)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 and 1/2 cups sugar ((330g)
- 2 teaspoons of orange extract (or Orange blossom water/rose water)
- 2 teaspoons of lemon extract
- one 20cm x 30cm x 5cm baking tray
- oven at 140 degrees c (fan assisted oven) 160degrees C normal oven