Syrup celebrations: Lebanese semolina cake (namoura) and Kenyan kalimati for Eid – recipe | Food

JThis year, the Australian National Imams Council announced that with the appearance of the new moon, Sunday would be the last day of Ramadan for most Australian Muslims, and Eid Al-Fitr would be the Monday May 2. The three-day celebration includes food, family visits, gifts for the children and, of course, sweets and pastries.

Before the festivities, two passionate amateur cooks share their recipes and the stories behind them.

Originally posted on Recipes for Ramadan.

Mama Ghanouj’s namoura recipe

Even though I come from a Lebanese background, where most girls find themselves in the kitchen relatively early, I didn’t grow up cooking from an early age. My mother loved the kitchen, it was her sanctuary. So much so that I had no right to set foot there or help him!

It wasn’t until my late teens that I was even allowed to peel a potato. Mom is very particular in her way of cooking. I stood at the kitchen door and watched her create and invent her dishes from the simplest ingredients. It’s only now that I have my own family that I realize I inherited this from her.

Tagrid Ahmad aka Mama Ghanouj Photo: Tagrid Ahmad

Mum was a single mother and I grew up with a brother in a small apartment in southern Sydney. We didn’t have fancy meals or big spreads, but I saw my mom use every ingredient she had on hand to create special meals, even from leftovers.

A dish close to my heart is “namoura”, a semolina cake soaked in sugar syrup. Mom saved the crispy bits that stuck to the sides of the pan for me, because she knew I loved them.

I remember sitting with her one afternoon when I was about 15 and asking her for the recipe, so that “when I get married I can make it for my family”. She gave it to me quickly, off the top of her head with rough measurements. I jotted it down on a piece of scrap paper and hid it in my bedside drawer.

It stayed there for years, until I was about to get married. Packing my things to move into my new home, I found him. I have since treasured this recipe and memory as a special gift from my mother. My kids love it now, as do I – and I save the crispy bits for them too.

Pouring syrup over Mama G's Lebanese semolina cake (Namoura)
Pouring syrup over Mama G’s Lebanese semolina cake (Namoura) Photography: Recipes for Ramadan

For the cake
3 cups coarse semolina
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
grease the tray
peeled almondsdecorate
crushed pistachio
Dried coconutdecorate

For the syrup
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups of water
squeezed lemon
2 capfuls of rose water

First prepare the syrup, so that it has time to cool. Bring all the ingredients to a boil except the rose water, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the rose water. Let cool.

For the namoura, combine all the ingredients except the tahini and toppings, and knead well.

Rest for 20 minutes. Coat the bottom of your baking sheet with tahini paste. A small amount is enough so that the cake does not stick. Spread cake mix into baking dish and cut in straight lines to create squares, diamonds or oblongs of desired size. It helps to dip your knife in oil to do this. Lines should keep their shape.

Place the blanched almonds on top (my kids love to help with that) and bake at 170°C until golden. Halfway through cooking, go over the cuts with a knife.

When it comes out of the oven, immediately pour the cold syrup over the hot cake. It sounds like a lot of syrup, and you’ll have to wait a bit for the cake to soak up before pouring more. Iron the cups to make sure the syrup soaks in well. Let the cake rest for a few hours before serving. Decorate with crushed pistachios, desiccated coconut, dried rosebuds or other toppings of your choice.

Kenyan Kalimati by Zohra Aly

When you are part of a family that has spent several generations migrating, the food and the language become the common threads of the place. My grandparents migrated in the 1930s from Gujurat on the west coast of India, to Kenya. My mother and her siblings were all born in Nairobi, where my grandfather worked in the railways. I was born in a small coastal town called Mombasa in the 1970s, which makes me a second generation East African Indian.

Screenwriter Zohra Aly
Zohra Aly was born in Mombasa, Kenya to Indian parents. Photography: Zohra Aly

I only knew a few words of Swahili, but my fondest childhood memories are rooted in the East African Indian cuisine I was exposed to. My grandmother combined recipes and cooking techniques from her upbringing in Hyderabadi, her married life in Gujurat, and the ingredients and flavors of East African cuisine. She used coconut milk to thicken curries and starchy tubers like cassava as carbohydrate sources.

I was just a little girl when Idi Amin ordered Asians from neighboring Uganda to leave within 90 days in 1972. The Indian diaspora in Kenya and Tanzania feared a similar fate, so many still migrated , fleeing to the West and the Middle East. My parents had separated by then, so mum and I traveled by boat for a five-day trip to Karachi in Pakistan. Two years later, we moved to Dubai, where my mother’s brothers had settled.

I met my husband, Abbas, in Dubai. He lived in Australia and visited his cousins ​​there. For five years as a pharmacy student in London, I had looked avidly at Neighbors with the rest of Britain, but I never imagined that I would end up marrying an Australian! Abbas’ family had emigrated from Tanzania to Illawarra in the mid-1970s, and he had grown up playing cricket and believing in fair play.

His mother was also the best samosa and biriani cook in town, and friends who came after school or work were well fed. Indian groceries were hard to come by at the time, let alone ingredients from East Africa, so they traveled to Bondi to stock up months at a time. She was innovative, finding substitutes for hard-to-find ingredients and shortcuts to cooking methods, and she kept all those recipes in her head.

For fifty years, my own mother has kept a book where she writes down her favorite recipes, and also pastes newspaper clippings into it. Later I started something similar with mum’s recipes, airmailed in blue letters when I moved to Australia, and my mother-in-law’s recipes that I learned cooking alongside her. It’s falling apart now, but I love flipping through all the different scriptures.

My kalimati recipe comes from my mother-in-law. This fried sweet is the quintessential East African treat to accompany your first cup of tea at iftar time. The dough uses yogurt to give it spice. Once the dough has risen, small balls are dropped into hot oil and fried, then coated in sticky syrup to make them sweet. The first crackle of kalimati propels you straight into a plush, plush interior.

Our iftar starts with the usual date, then a cup of tea and a kalimati – or two (it’s almost impossible to stop at one!). Over the years I have made kalimati so often during Ramadan that I no longer need the recipe. I think it’s a real sign that a dish is becoming a staple on the family table.

kalimati recipe

Kenyan Kalimati - fried yoghurt paste soaked in syrup
Kenyan Kalimati – fried yoghurt paste soaked in syrup. Photography: Zohra Aly

For the dough
1 cup white flour
2 heaped tablespoons of rice flour
2 heaped tablespoons of plain yogurt
preferably sour yogurt
3/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water
Vegetable oil
, for frying

For the syrup
1 cup of sugar
¾ cup of water
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of cardamom seeds

To make the kalimati paste, place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add the yogurt and a cup of water. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with your fingers, then add more water slowly as needed, holding your fingers together and beating the batter with them. You may not need 1.5 cups of water to achieve the required consistency, which is elastic, looser than cake batter, but not runny. The dough comes together quickly when you mix it. Once it has the right consistency, cover the dough with cling film and let it rise in a warm place for a few hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the syrup by heating the water and sugar in a saucepan until it begins to boil. Crush the saffron strands between your fingers and crush the cardamom seeds with the back of a wooden spoon before adding the two to the syrup. Stir the syrup several times and remove it from the heat when it becomes sticky. To test the consistency, make sure the syrup is cool enough to touch, scoop out a teaspoon of syrup and gently dip your index finger in it. When you quickly press your finger against your thumb, the syrup should be sticky enough to form a strand. Alternatively, the syrup should be sticky enough to coat the back of a teaspoon.

The dough is ready when it has become sparkling and creamy.

Leavened kalimati dough, ready for frying
Leavened kalimati dough, ready for frying. Photography: Zohra Aly

To fry the kalimati, heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. The temperature is good when a drop of dough fallen into the oil immediately rises to the surface. Use a lightly oiled round teaspoon or tablespoon to drop seven or eight balls of batter into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the wok.

Reduce the heat to low and stir the balls with a slotted spoon to ensure they color evenly. When they are golden, remove from the oil, strain well and drop into the cooled syrup, stirring them to coat them well. Remove and place on a serving plate and continue frying the rest of the batter. When all the kalimati are fried, serve in a dish and pour the rest of the syrup over it.

Let them sit in the syrup for a while – if possible – to let the flavor soak in.

Prepare a cup of tea and enjoy two or even three.

  • Tagrid Ahmad is better known as “Mama Ghanouj”. Her popular food blog explains how to make traditional dishes faster and cheaper. You can follow her on Instagram at @mamaghanouj_kitchen. You can watch a video version of her polenta cake recipe here.

  • Zohra Aly was born in Kenya in the 1970s. She is an administrator and runs Saturday school at Imam Hasan Center in Annangrove, Sydney’s northwest. Writer and former pharmacist, she is currently working on a novel, is married and has four children and two Burmese cats.

  • You can find these recipes and over 60 other Australian-Muslim recipes and stories from 21 different countries on the Recipes for Ramadan website; and follow the project on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

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