37. Moroccan Basboosa (Semolina Slice)

Basboosa Baby

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

Food Heaven

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!

Pastey Semolina

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.)

Basboosa Baby

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)

Syrup

  • 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

Equipment

  • one 20cm x 30cm x 5cm baking tray
  • oven at 140 degrees c (fan assisted oven) 160degrees C normal oven

 

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32. Moomins Love Berry and Cardamom Cake – Finland

I spotted the amazing Moomin Cookbook on my friend Jess’s shelf. Curious to discover what moomins eat I discovered this gorgeous recipe for lingdonberry and cardamom cake. It’s a traditional Finnish recipe, yet another country I am still yet to visit.
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Unfortunately the only place I have seen lingdonberries is Ikea and that was in jam form so I substituted to the extreme using a combination of blueberries and dried cranberries.

The most time consuming part was grinding the cardamom pods ( I lost count of how many I smashed to produce 2tsp of ground cardamom) and the cloves. I have a feeling I was a bit over enthusiastic with the addition of cloves but it added a wonderfully Christmassy aroma to the kitchen (and the final cake).

grinding cardamon and cloves

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After my pestle and mortar workout all that was left to do was mush up the berries, then beat all of the ingredients together in one bowl. Wonderfully quick and little mess too!

If I was in less of a hurry I would have used my stick blender to blitz the berries but as I was in a rush I just used the back of fork… Not the best way to mush up dried fruit. Perhaps I should have soaked the cranberries in juice beforehand.

The recipe called for a greased and dusted (with semolina) loose bottomed tart tin. I paid little attention to these directions and subsequently forgot to add a dusting of semolina to my tin. I also forgot to use the specified tin and ended up with making use of my favourite bundt tin (again!)

To compensate for the tin difference I baked the sponge for a slightly shorter period of time and when the skewer came out clean from the cake, I knew it was baked through.

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This was so much quicker and non of the hassle of lining tins with greaseproof paper. I recently indulged in a can of baking spray to grease my cake tins with (or ‘quick release spray’) as it was half price and it makes such a difference. Very quick and easy to use. Perfect for when I’m in a hurry, which is most days. No buttery fingers produced either!

I was worried that the lack of semolina in my tin would mean the cake stuck but it simply slid out as soon as I turned tin over onto my cooling rack. Effortless baking. Just how I like it, which meant I could cook tea whilst whipping this cake up simultaneously. (I just can’t stop multitasking!)

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It’s  recommended that you leave the cake for a day to develop the favours. I successfully managed to resist cutting into it all night. However I was a little worried that the cloves might be a bit overpowering in this recipe, having never baked with cardamon before I wasn’t sure what to expect….

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I loved the combination of the spices, the cloves definitely come through first with a tingly punch, while the cardamon and ginger add gentle undertones of warmth. It went well with the terrible weather we’ve been having in England recently, rain, rain and more rain along with snow in some places! But equally now the sun is shining I could merrily munch on a slice of berry and cardamon cake with a cup of tea. Spicy and fruity and moist. What could be better? No wonder the Moomins love Lingdonberry and cardamom cake!

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Things I used to make Berry and Cardamon cake.

* 2tsp baking powder
* 250g brown sugar
* 250g plain flour
* 2tsp ground ginger
* 2tsp ground cloves
* 2tsp ground cardamom seeds
* 2tsp ground cinnamon
* 50g of blueberries (pureed/mushed) – if you can find lingdonberries just use 50 g of these as a puree)
* 10g dried cranberries (pureed/mushed)
* 200ml single cream
* 2eggs
* 90g melted butter

* One bundt tin
* One oven heated to  175 degrees c
* Bake for 1 hour or until cake is cooked all the way through
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* This recipe was lovingly adapted from The Moomins Cookbook