Nammoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

This week has been a morale booster week in regards to my blog. First, Foodgawker and Tastespotting approved some of my food pictures! I should be given an award for perseverance for that! And then Blue Abaya mentioned me in her list of Top 20 Blogs of Saudi Arabia. As a beginner, and living in this quiet corner, I feel elated when I get the slightest mention or acceptance. I guess I am just hard wired that way - appreciation and acknowledgement make me feel good when it comes unsolicited. If only my man knew that...

So last week I had shared this image on Instagram and was bombarded with questions from friends. I think they are just curious to know how I made it on stove-top :-P. I did mention that this version is minus the "browning", so I would really recommend that you look out for regional bloggers to get the overall idea, authenticity, tradition etc... before you blindly follow my recipe. :-) It is good to research and learn about a dish and then make your own version. But if you are hard-pressed for time, then please go ahead and try! :-P

About Nammoura which also goes by the name Basbousa! For Indians, it resembles our Kesari barfi but what goes into making it is totally different. In my initial days in Yanbu, F got me a box of basbousa which was the first and last time I had a bakery bought basbousa! I couldn't believe that I could actually say no to a sweet made with semolina as anything with semolina is a win! Maybe the flavours were new and it's an acquired taste.. especially if Orange Blossom Water is used.

Almost after a year, now that I blog about food, I wanted to try my hands in making basbousa on stove-top, well because I have no oven.  Even though I have a recipe in the Lebanese cookbook I own, I wanted to check other versions. There is more than two to three version of basbousa, which are different by name, ingredients and even by method! Each region of middle east, north African countries have their own unique version, some use flour with egg or even coconut shreds. I really want to try the coconut one!

Nammoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

On my first attempt, I made this in a loaf pan and used almonds and butter; and to get the browning, I toasted the basbousa pieces on the tawa with the sugar syrup! :-P lol ...this version was finger-licking good - literally finger-licking, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was much better than the bakery one I had tasted. The fine semolina baked with butter and rose water infused syrup and the sesame flavour - it was a flavour bomb!

But I wanted to try again and this time uses the round version with a diamond shape inspired by Sawsan, and also use orange blossom water and pistachios. I used a springform pan and this time I skipped the browning! I was so elated with the outcome, that I clicked too many pictures of it and it is so hard for me to decide what to put up here because nothing came out as expected :-( lol!

Nammoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

The loaf pan version gave squares and was tall while the springform was right thickness and diamond-shaped. Coming to think of it, I would not even use the springform next time! I would just use my round wide shallow pan with the diffuse technology ones! I will keep you posted on that trial. We had this throughout the weekend nibbling on it whenever we passed by it.. :-P

This recipe is adapted from the cookbook and for cutting the diamond shape design I referred here.

Nammoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake


For Basbousa
3/4 cup fine semolina
1/4 cup coarse semolina
5 tablespoon soft butter or soft ghee
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoons tahini 
1 tablespoon of tahini to grease the baking dish

For the syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2  to 3/4 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Orange Blossom Water and/or rose water

For Garnish
Crushed pistachios for garnishing


Preheating: Stove-top users can bake this just the way you bake cakes on a stovetop. You can use a pressure cooker or like me use any deep curry pot that fits the cake pan and has a lid with a steam release. Place a flat tawa on low heat and keep the pot over the tawa. Oven users may have to preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4. 

Aromatic Syrup: First, make the syrup. In a thick-bottomed saucepan, add the sugar, water and lemon juice and bring it to boil over medium heat. DO NOT STIR. Once boiled, lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened and switch off. You can test the readiness of the syrup by just take a little in a spoon and leave it to cool. If it gets thick and sticky, then the syrup is ready. Otherwise, let it boil for few more minutes. Add the rosewater or orange blossom water if using. Allow it to cool before use. 

Prepare Pan: Next, grease the springform pan or any baking dish with tahini all over bottom and sides. I used 20 x 4 cm. 

Batter: Now, make the Basbousa or Nammoura batter. In a bowl, mix the semolina, ghee, yoghurt, juice, sugar, baking powder, tahini sauce until homogeneous and pour the batter into the baking dish. The batter will not be in pouring consistency, so use a rubber spatula to clean the bowl and level the surface using a wet hand. Use a knife to draw lines and cut the basbousa to your desired shapes or size. Decorate with crushed pistachios.

Stove-top Bake: Place the pan inside the pot which is getting heated over the tawa. Bake on medium heat for 15 minutes and reduce the heat and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until you see the sides are browning. It may take anywhere between 35 to 45 minutes.

Oven Bakers may have to bake for 45 minutes and then if you want to brown the top like classic basbousa, then brush the top with melted butter and return to oven for another  2 to 3 minutes. 

Add syrup and serve: When done, take out of the pot using mittens and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Cut again along the already scored lines, and then drizzle the prepared sugar syrup. Please remember that the basbousa/Nammoura needs to be hot and the syrup needs to be room temperature. So add as much as sugar syrup you need before the cakes become cold.

Garnish: Decorate with ground pistachio/Almonds and serve as a dessert.

Nammoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

This time I had to mix both fine and coarse semolina because I didn't have enough of one type. Also, this time I have used ghee instead of butter. Both the version was equally good. For garnishing I have used pistachios just for a change, you can still stick with the classic almonds. Tahini paste or sauce can be used here. I have used Tahini paste and so added some lemon juice. If you are using Tahini Sauce, then cut down on the lemon juice. The oven baker details are being shared from what I read and so it is to be taken as a guideline only.

Nammoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

I made less than usual sugar syrup to watch my weight and so the basbousa was more towards dry than soaked in syrup. But I think this was perfect to pick and eat anytime without having to constantly wash hands off the sticky syrup :-P call me lazy!

I hope my this post will inspire you to try this famous Middle Eastern sweet. Get inspired and get baking! :-P 


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