Semolina Cake (Nammoura)
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”
Shakespeare was on to something when he penned those famous words… The fact that semolina cake is known by so many different names does diminish the fact that it’s quite delicious! Semolina cake originated in Egypt. Assyrians call it “nammoura,” while others refer to it by it’s Arabic name, “basbousa.” Greeks call this cake “ravani,” and other Middle Eastern regions refer to it as “harissa.” One thing everyone can agree on is the fact that this cake is quite unique and surprisingly scrumptious!
There are many variations to this recipe. For example, if you are fasting from dairy, you can substitute the yogurt with 3/4 cup of orange juice. Some add eggs, while others choose to omit them. Orange blossom water may be used in the syrup, or more commonly, rose water. Most mix the coconut in the batter, still others sprinkle the coconut on top. Occasionally you’ll see this cake baked in a round pan, and cut into wedges. However, traditionally, it’s cut into squares, each having an almond in the center.
It’s In the Texture
You might be used to cake having a moist or delicate texture. Get that expectation out of your head. Semolina cake is very unique, and unlike any cake you’ve ever had. In fact, this cake is quite dense, and has a texture that is reminiscent of cornbread. That’s right, cornbread, only sweeter and drenched in syrup!
Semolina cake is usually served alongside a perfectly-brewed, cup of tea, or “chai” as we call it in the Middle East. I’m not talking about tea made with a seeped teabag, no thank you! I’m referring to loose leaf (earl grey) tea, perfectly seeped, with extra cardamom. I don’t know what it is about cardamom, but it makes everything better in my opinion. Chai beautifully complements the dense texture of this cake. Try it for yourself to see what the fuss is all about!