Semolina cake drenched in sticky rosewater syrup

This cake is widely known as Basbousa. It’s a traditional Middle Eastern dessert. It tastes nutty, coconutty and sweet; paired with the delicious and distinctive scent of Rose water. It can be made days ahead as it actually improves with time. Cakes made with semolina are ‘healthy’ (-er than normal cakes), and have a great texture.

What was the reason for baking this beauty? GREED, and the dire need to fatten the world (well my colleagues and friends anyway).

Semolina cake

SEMOLINA CAKE

  • 335g semolina
  • 110g sugar
  • 30g desiccated coconut (preferably unsweetened)
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 110g plain yoghurt
  • 55g melted butter
  • 115ml milk
  • Handful of flaked or whole almonds

ROSE WATER SYRUP

  • 375ml water
  • 120g sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 2tbsp rose water
  • pinch of saffron soaked in 2tbsp cold water

METHOD

  1. Mix together the semolina, sugar, desiccated coconut and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Stir in the yoghurt, melted butter and milk to form a stiff batter.
  3. Spread the mixture into a lined baking tin, approximately 6×6 inches square. (Make sure you line the dish with greaseproof paper, otherwise you will have a nightmare releasing the cake after it has been baked!) Score diagonal lines to form a diamond pattern into the batter, and place the almonds in the middle of each diamond. Leave the mixture to rest for about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to about 180C, and pop the cake in for 25 minutes, or until it starts to turn a lovely golden brown.
  5. While the cake is baking, make the syrup. In a small pan, bring the water, sugar, vanilla (pod or extract), rose water and saffron, along with it’s soaking water to the boil. Simmer it for about 5 minutes, and leave it to cool slightly.
  6. When the cake is ready, remove it from the oven, and re score the diamond pattern. It is important that you do this, so the syrup soaks deep into the cracks of the cake to completely smother each piece.
  7. While the cake is still hot, pour the syrup over the cake and allow the syrup to fully absorb into the cake. Cool it completely before you remove it from the tin.

Tips:

  • Serve this cake with yoghurt sweetened with honey, and seasonal fruit.
  • When storing it for a few days, ensure it is in an airtight container.
  • Replace the rose water with orange blossom water, or any other flavoured syrup.
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Crème caramel

Every time I go home (mummy’s house) I go baking mad. I take over the kitchen, and use all the ingredients in her house to ‘experiment’. I then leave the family with a heap of ridiculously fattening goods. Myself satisfied that I have learnt something new. Well it IS all about me isn’t it?!

Crème caramel is a classic. It’s one of our favourites – wobbly and light, who can resist?

CUSTARD

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 500ml milk
  • 1/2 vanilla pod (or vanilla extract)

CARAMEL

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 1/2 vanilla pod (or vanilla extract)

These measurements make approximately 4 small puddings (I used a 7cm round ramekin).

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 140C.
  2. Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolk and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Then mix in the milk and seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod.
  4. Leave it to infuse for about 10 minutes, then pass it through a fine sieve – into a clean bowl.
  5. To make the caramel, boil the sugar and water in a small pan without stirring. The syrup will thicken and turn a nice golden brown (the colour of caramel).
  6. Mix in the seeds from the other 1/2 vanilla pod.
  7. Pour the hot caramel into the ramekins, and swirl it around to make sure the bottom is covered with the good stuff.
  8. Leave them to cool for about 5 minutes.
  9. Pour the egg mixture into each ramekin, and place the ramekins in a roasting tin.
  10. CAREFULLY pour hot water in the roasting tin, around the ramekins, until it reaches about half way up the sides. (This is called a bain-marie.)
  11. Bake the crème caramels in the pre heated oven for about 40 minutes – or until they are baked, with a good wobble in the centre. It’s ALL about the wobble.
  12. Remove them from the oven and the hot water, and leave them to the side to cool. Pop them in the fridge for a few hours before serving.
  13. To turn them out, loosen the sides with a knife, and turn them upside down on a plate.

These are soooo yummy – that you just have to invite me round when you make them. THANKS!

Slightly adapted from James Martin – one of my all time favourite chefs – Thanks J!