Thursday, June 28, 2007

sweet little squares

popular in all middle eastern countries, this cake is always a favourite amongst adults and children. made from fine semolina, butter and yogurt, it is doused with the typical sugar and water syrup right after baking and left to soak it up, leaving a moist wonderful treat.

depending upon the country in which it is made, or the ethnic group who is making it, these sweet little squares go by different names and sometimes contain ingredients such as shredded coconut and, in the sefardi way, ground nuts and spices. typically, each square is adorned by a single whole blanched almond or a small mound of finely ground pistachio added before serving. this version is a lebanese-type one and is made in thin squares; it goes by the name of nammoura. it can also be called basboussa, tishpishti, revani, gâteau de semoule or hrisa. one of my favourite things about this cake is that tehini (sesame) paste is used to coat the pan instead of butter which gives an amazing final flavour to the cake. of course, you can still use butter but it won't be the same.

the cake is comprised of two components — the att'ar or syrup and the cake itself. the whole cake takes a little forethought as you need to make the syrup first and let it cool to room temperature since the cake uses part of this syrup as the sweetener. once all put together, the cake rests for several hours for the syrup to be fully absorbed and the flavours to mingle.

nammoura can be made either in thick squares or thin ones. this one is thin, my personal preference. if you want them thick, then double the ingredients and follow the same directions. for this version, you'll need a 6 ½ or 7 inch pan, either square or circular. i wouldn't use an 8 inch pan as it will be too large for this amount and result in a cake which is hard and too thin. look at the dollar stores or grocery stores for disposable aluminum smaller ones if you don't have this size baking tin. if you do double the recipe, use an 8 or 9 inch pan for thick squares or the larger 9 by 12 inch pan for thin ones.

nammoura ~ gâteau de semoule
טשפשטי ~ هريسة او نمورة او بسبوسة

sweet little cake squares made from semolina, these are utterly delicious. each square is accented by a nice single almond and the taste of nutty sesame paste. the corner pieces are the best! a must for afternoon snacks or "tea", make sure you start in the morning as it needs to sit for several hours before serving. they will keep, covered, on the counter for only a day or two — if there are any remaining!

makes 16 small squares

ingredients for syrup:

1 2/3 c white sugar
3/4 c water
1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp orange flower water, opt


combine sugar, water and lemon juice only and bring to boil. once the sugar is all dissolved, lower the heat to low, or enough heat to maintain bubbling.

cook the syrup for 10 minutes and remove from heat. add the orange flower water if using. the syrup should be a very thin syrup. it will thicken slightly on cooling.

once cooled, start the cake.

ingredients for cake:

1 c fine semolina
2 tbsp ground almonds, opt.
3 tbsp shredded coconut, opt.
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 heaped tsp baking powder

1/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c full fat yogurt

3 oz cooled syrup

tahini sesame paste or butter

blanched whole almonds,
enough to equal number of squares OR
3 tbsp finely ground pistachio*


combine the semolina with the other dry ingredients. the ground almonds and coconut are optional but very good.

add the softened butter and cream it with the dry ingredients. add the yogurt and blend again with mixer.

add the syrup last and blend well.

you can add everything together all at once but you need a big bowl, as it gets messy when you start to blend everything together.

preheat oven to 350F.

take the tehini paste or butter and add enough to coat the pan you are using. make sure to coat the pan well with the tahini. you should be able to see it shmeared on.

place the batter in the pan and spread it evenly.

now take a knife and mark your squares by scoring. you do not want to go all the way through. this is just to mark the squares.

place a single almond in the middle of each square and press it in slightly. *if using finely ground pistachio, skip this step and see end of recipe.

bake the cake for 35 minutes @ 350F.

remove cake from oven. raise the heat to 375 F.

take a knife and cut through all the squares.

return the pan to the oven for another 20 to 25 minutes or until it's golden brown.

remove from oven and while still hot, pour the cold att'ar (syrup) over the squares.

let it sit for several hours to absorb. this is essential! don't eat before!! *if using finely ground pistachio to decorate each square, let the syrup absorb fully and just before serving place about 1/4 heaped teaspoon of it in the middle of each square.

serve with coffee or tea or whatever drink makes you happy.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

beat the heat drinks — no. 2

this will be called the montreal orange version of beat the heat drinks as it has a specific link to the city in which i currently live.

this famous locally-invented drink, known as orange julep, has, over the years, extended its popularity to the states {where it's called orange julius} and maybe even a few foreign countries, too. concocted in the 1940s by a man called Hermas Gibeau ('zhjee-boh' roughly), it is the hallmark of the famous landmark as you enter the city of Montreal's west end — 'da big orange — a gigantic 3 storey [orange, of course] spherical fastfood joint!

photo source:

this place really rocks, especially in the summer on wednesday nights. it is the meeting place for people showing off their cars and motorcycles. people usually get hotdogs, hamburgers and fries to go with their o-j's. it's also where teens and everyone and anyone of any age run into each other for food and gossip.

here is a facsimile of the orange julep which is pretty good, i must say. though not the real mc coy, it is pretty addictive. orange, creamy and dreamy, you won't be sorry you whipped up a few of these.

hope you enjoy this taste of montreal :)

it's the beginning of our heat waves here — with the humidity today and tomorrow going into the low 40s C! that's 104 F plus for you non-metric people. ACK! guess i'll be drinking more than one of these :)

orange julep for two

this is the non egg version of this drink. thick, creamy and nice and cold, it's perfect for hot days or anytime you want something really good — almost like a pureed creamsicle :D

makes 2 servings or enough for 1 with a refill :)


1/3 c orange concentrate, frozen (half of a 6 oz can)
1/2 c milk
1/2 c water
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 ice cubes


combine all and blend until very smooth. no ice chunks allowed!!

enjoy and then repeat. LOL.

* * * * *

someone has even made youtube video of it. aahhh but nothing compares to the original. i guess you'll just have to visit montreal and go to that big orange to taste the real deal — though this version is pretty darn good as a substitute.

check out some other funky orange restos in the usa.

Friday, June 22, 2007

weekend "goodies" project

these almost shortbread-like cookies are a fun little project which can be tailored to your taste. while i have used apricot preserves to fill them, you can use any type of preserve or jam you like.

once filled and baked, they are then iced with a simple glaçage of confectioners sugar and lemon juice to offset the sweetness of the preserves. adding sliced almonds either on top of the preserves before baking or toasted ones on top the icing afterwards adds texture and interest also. of course, they are just as good without it. experiment and see what you like.

apricot preserve diagonals


1 stick (1/2 c) margarine or butter
1/4 c sugar
1 1/4 c all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

3 tbsp preserves or jam of your choice
sliced almonds, optional

9 - 10 tbsp icing (confectioners) sugar,
or enough to make a thick but runny icing
1 tbsp lemon juice or water

toasted sliced almonds for garnish, optional


preheat oven to 35oF.

in a mixing bowl, beat the softened margarine with the sugar, vanilla or almond extract and salt until it is light.

add the flour in 1/4 cups until all has been incorporated.

make a ball and then divide the dough equally into 3 portions (~112 grams each).

line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil the sheet.

with your hands, roll out each ball into a length which measures about 8 1/2 to 9 inches. you will notice that it may crack while you're rolling it out. don't worry about that, just squeeze it together and work it so it extends. the cracks are part of the look of the cookie.

carefully place the ropes on cookie sheet. i have found it easier to roll the dough out on a chopping board and then carefully roll it/transfer to the sheet.

once on the sheet, take your finger and press into it about a 1/4 inch from the top edge. you need a border.

press all the way down the dough until you reach about 1/4 inch again. the dough will probably crack, again, don't worry about it. the final shape should sort of look like a little canoe. just make sure they are compact.

in a bowl, place 1 tbsp (maybe 1/2 to 1 tsp extra, if needed) of apricot preserves or jam and mix it well to break up any lumps. don't be tempted to use more as it will overflow and make a mess. trust me, i know ;P

place this tablespoon of preserves all along the length of one "canoe". repeat two more times.

at this point, you can sprinkle some sliced almonds on top if you like. you can also add shredded coconut over the filling.

place the cookies in the oven for 17 to 20 minutes.

remove cookie sheet from oven and let cool completely. if you move them now, they will break.

once cooled, make your icing by mixing the lemon juice or water together with the sugar. if you don't want to use the icing sugar mixture, you can alternatively dust them with icing sugar using a fine meshed sieve.

make sure your icing is not too runny and thin. if it is, add more icing sugar bit by bit. it should be thick-ish but still runny. test a bit on the edge of the pastries first to see if it is the right consistency otherwise you will end up with a mess.

drizzle the icing equally over each of the canoes with a spoon and let it harden. putting it in the fridge for an hour or so helps hasten the process.

once the icing is set, cut the "canoes" diagonally. make them as big as you want. mine are usually 1 inch wide.


happy first full day of summer :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

beat the heat drinks — no. 1

with heat and humidity reaching 37 C in my area lately, all thoughts are on cooling down and escaping the oppressive midday sun. over the next while, i will be posting a few of my favourite drinks that can either be used to cool down or to start your day.

the first is a smoothie type drink which is quickly thrown together and blended, especially if you get the blender out the night before and have your ingredients ready to go. part of the success is having the fruit you are using frozen. this helps thicken things without the excess use of ice which tends to dilute the flavours. of course, you can still successfully make them without freezing the fruit. i'll leave that up to you :-) if you use soy milk, you can use either plain or vanilla flavoured — both work well. if using frozen fruit, you will probably need a bit extra liquid than called for in the recipes below.

strawberry banana smoothie

strawberries and bananas go together perfectly in this almost milkshake type drink. great for a hot day or starting your morning!

makes 1 large smoothie or 2 small ones


4 to 5 good sized frozen strawberries
1/2 large banana, sliced and frozen*
3 good sized ice cubes
1 - 3 tsp sugar
2/3 - 1 c soy milk OR regular milk OR yogurt, or more as needed
1 tbsp soy protein powder (totally optional)

*you can substitute 1 frozen peach [peeled, "stoned" & sliced] for the banana or the strawberries


place fruit and ice in blender with sugar. here i used a fresh banana instead of frozen. if you don't have a strong blender you may want to use fresh fruit but don't omit the ice.

add the liquid and blend to desired consistency.

chocolate fruit smoothie

sounds a bit strange but this combination makes a great beverage. the strawberry is a good compliment to the predominating flavour of the cocoa, adding a bit of tang.

makes 1 large smoothie or 2 small ones


4 to 5 good sized frozen strawberries
1/2 large banana, sliced {banana doesn't have to be frozen}
3 good sized ice cubes
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar
2/3 - 1 c soy milk OR regular milk OR yogurt, or more as needed


place fruit and ice in blender with sugar and cocoa.

add the liquid and blend to desired consistency.

add more liquid as needed. blend until smooth and serve right away.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

better-the-next-day cookies

these cookies are somewhat like the very popular mexican wedding cake type cookies or the greek kourabiedes, the exception being that they contain no eggs and include semolina. the semolina gives the cookies a different texture, one which is a little chewy. much much better the next day, these are very easy to make and great with strong coffee or tea.

called kurabiyeh, a turkish (or perhaps arabic, too) word for just "cookies" these are typically coated with icing sugar, a very common practice in many mediterranean countries. my siblings and i used to call these 'crabby' cookies because of the name — however after a few of them, you certainly weren't crabby but more happy from all the sugar :D. they probably made our parents crabby as there was always icing sugar all over our clothes and the floor! don't forget your plate or napkin when you eat these.

semolina kurabiyeh (cookies)

perfect with coffee or tea, these cookies taste even better the day after you make them. the semolina, which gives them a bit of a chewier texture, seems to relax a bit producing a firmer textured cookie.

makes approx. 24 kurabiyeh


1 c AP flour or cake flour, or 50/50 mix
1/2 c semolina
1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

1 c pistachios or other nuts, chopped

1 tbsp orange flower or rose water, optional
1/4 lb margarine or butter
2 tbsp oil

icing sugar, to coat cookies
1 tbsp finely ground pistachios, to garnish (opt)


preheat oven to 325 F and lightly grease baking sheet.

mix dry ingredients together.

add nuts and mix everything.

cut butter or margarine into cubes and add oil. add the orange flower or rose water, if using.

with your hands, mix everything until it is crumbly. test by taking some of the mixture and squeezing it together. it should clump. if it does not, add a bit more oil. the mixture should be dryish.

make your shapes, either round or oval. it's about 1 generous tbsp for each cookie.

place on a baking sheet which has been lightly oiled leaving space between each cookie as they will expand some as they bake.

bake for only 20 minutes and remove from oven. let cool completely. don't move them before or they will break.

once cool, coat them in icing sugar. let them sit overnight. they taste better the next day and will harden up. they will be too "chewy" on the same day of making them.

after coating with the icing sugar, you can put about 1/8 tsp of ground pistachio powder on top to garnish each cookie (i ran out of pistachios when i made these!) to make them fancier.