Namoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

Namoura is the Lebanese version of Basbousa. A classic Middle Eastern semolina cake baked with ghee, yoghurt and tahini and soaked in sugar syrup flavoured with orange blossom water and or rose water. What is great to know is Namoura cake is easy to make and comes together in just one bowl – no mixer required. 

Basbousa pieces served on a tunisian plate

In my initial days in Yanbu, F got me a box of basbousa which was the first time I had a bakery bought basbousa! I couldn't believe that I could actually say no to a sweet made with semolina as you all know my love for Rava. I guess it was the orange blossom water flavour that was new to my tastebuds but within months I was asking for more Arabic sweets and our weekend trips to Saadeddin pastry for our baklava fix became a ritual. 

This post has been updated with new content and images on 12th May 2021. 

These images are of two different batches made at two different times. 

Namoura served in three plates on a tray

Namoura is similar to Egyptian Basbousa or Palestinian Harisseh or Greek Revani or Turkish Sambali or Algerian Kalb el louz (many more that I may not have heard) but each has its distinct character and only the owner would know. Having learnt that the Namoura and the other variations are not technically a Basbousa, I don't want to say this recipe ticks the box for all the different types.  But you cannot deny that Basbousa is so popular around the world that a Middle Eastern semolina cake often gets labelled as Basbousa, at least in my side of the world. You just nodded right? 

Recipes evolve with generations and with cross-culture families, it is hard to say what is authentic, but we continue to share our best finds or family recipes because we want to celebrate food. Though there is a recipe for Namoura in my favourite Lebanese cookbook, I took the time (a year!) to read some of my favourite Arab food blogger versions too. There is more than one version of this sweet and they are different by name, ingredients and even by method! Some recipes use flour with egg, some use farina, some use coarse semolina and some fine and some both! Not only that, some use milk or yoghurt or just plain water! It is impossible to test every version to decide which to blog about so I am sharing a basic Namoura recipe because you know I lean on Levant food! 😍 You can easily tweak this recipe to make other variations or fusions like my Mango Basbousa.

Namoura served in three plates on a tray with rose petal sprinkled

Update: Ramadan 2021
Ever since we moved to UAE, I have been wanting to update this post with better recipes and pictures. I finally made a small batch of Namoura this Ramadan and hoped to rewrite the content before Eid. But I was not too happy with the results because they were too soft. I could barely lift them without breaking them. The pictured with almonds studded are from that attempt. I managed to only save these pieces intact and the rest was a muddle. Like always my impatience to wait for it to cool completely could have been a factor.  Tastewise, it did not fail but I was looking for a sturdier version because this is Lebanese Namoura, unlike Egyptian Basbousa which are soft and melt in the mouth. F called it Arabic Kesari 😁and we scooped and ate it in the span of three days. I didn't want to share a recipe that I knew had a scope of improvement. I had moved this post back to draft but a lot of you are searching for Basbousa so thought I should make it again and try to share the recipe before Eid. Alhamdulillah, we are blessed with 30 days so I also got some time to write this.

Namoura pieces on a plate with kalanchoe plant in the backgronud

What is Namoura made of?

Namoura is a classic Lebanese semolina cake baked with ghee, yoghurt and tahini and is soaked in sugar syrup with orange blossom water and rose water. In this recipe, Tahini is only used to grease the pan but you may add a spoonful in the batter too. 

QUICK TIPS

  • The type of semolina used will determine how many liquid ingredients you will have to add. If you don't have fine semolina, you can grind the coarse or skip and use desiccated coconut or just use more coarse semolina and increase the yoghurt and ghee a bit while mixing the dough. 
  • If you use all fine semolina you can achieve a soft melt in mouth basbousa. But I prefer a light cakey with a crispy top. I have tried with fine, coarse, roasted or plain rava and they are all are equally delicious or I am just biased to semolina. πŸ˜„ 
  • I have never given a resting period before and after baking, but I tested it with this batch to know if it will make any difference. I rested 30 mins before baking and an hour after baking. I am not sure if ‘before baking’ made any difference but resting after pouring the syrup is a must. I am including it in the recipe notes because it may be a factor that might work for you. 
  • Also, in some random browsing, I saw someone suggest using a plastic knife to score the basbousa and I must say it was indeed a brilliant idea. I can't seem to remember who... so will link here when I do. 
Namoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake


Namoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

Namoura Recipe | Lebanese Semolina Cake

Measured using measuring cup where 1 cup = 250ml
Measured using fluff, scoop and sweep method.

INGREDIENTS

For the aromatic simple syrup 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 green cardamom 
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water 
  • 1 teaspoon rose water 
For Namoura
  • 3/4 cup coarse semolina 
  • 2 tablespoon fine semolina or desiccated coconut  (you may process the coarse to fine)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup ghee or butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water 
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 2 teaspoon tahini to grease the baking dish
For Garnish
  • 10 to 15 almonds, soaked, peeled and halved

METHOD

  1. Prepare the syrup: Add the sugar, water, cardamom (if using) into a deep pan and heat over low to medium flame until all of the sugar dissolves. You don't want to stir this. Bring to boil and add the lemon juice. Don't stir too many times. Lower the heat and let simmer for 5 to 8 minutes. Switch off and allow it to cool before use. The syrup should not be too thick so take off while it is still flowy as it will thicken while cooling. You can make this ahead and keep refrigerated. 
  2. Prepare the Namoura batter: Combine the semolina, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the melted ghee or melted butter and use a spatula to make sure all of the semolina is coated with the fat. Next, stir in the yoghurt and orange blossom water and lightly combine to obtain a thick batter. Do not over mix. 
  3. Prepare the baking pan: Grease a square brownie pan or a round 7-inch pan with tahini. I lined my pan with baking paper but that is optional. Spread the batter evenly using a spatula. Smooth the surface with wet hands. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to even out the batter. Cover the pan and let it rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven towards the end of the resting time. Use a plastic knife to score lines for square or diamond shape. Studd each piece with peeled and halved almonds. 
  4. Preheat and Bake: Preheat the oven to 180℃ with the rack in middle. Bake the Namoura for 25 to 35 minutes or until the edges start to brown and leave the sides. To acquire a browned top, you may brush the top with some butter and put it back in the oven with a Flat grill or broil mode on. Keep an eye and remove it when it reaches a caramelized colour. 
  5. Soak in syrup: Remove from the oven and pour room temperature sugar syrup (approx 2/3 to 3/4 cup or all of it) all over the hot Namoura. Let it cool for at least an hour before you can cut along the scored lines. If you find the cake too dry or syrup not enough, then warm up some syrup and pour over the cooled cake. Let it absorb and cool a bit.  So it is always cooled syrup over hot bake or hot syrup over cooled bake. 
  6. Serve: Carefully remove one piece using an offset spatula. Once a piece is out the rest is a breeze. Serve with more nuts and dried fruits or some Arabic coffee. Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to two days and refrigerate after that It tastes great cold too but you may warm up in the oven before serving again. 
Namoura or Basbousa | Middle Eastern Semolina Cake

MORE RECIPES USING SYRUP?
I would love to know if you have tried this recipe. You may leave a comment below or follow me on Instagram and mention @butfirstchaai or tag #butfirstchaiblog so that I can see your creations! Thank you! 

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