When I was (much) younger, I have to admit, I really didn’t like Arabic sweets. They tasted strange and were too sweet (even for my sweet tooth). Of course, as I’ve grown older and my palate has become more sophisticated, I’ve come to appreciate their flavor, complexity, and their place in my own heritage.
Namourah is a perfect example of a dessert I loathed as a kid but love now. In fact, I take it to parties sometimes and it’s usually one of the first items to be devoured (and there is a lot of food at the parties I go to. Food people, you know).
Namourah is a dessert that is ubiquitous all over the Middle East. The basic recipe (which I’ll be showing you in this post) is made with a simple syrup flavored with orange or rose water. However, it is also made with honey and some recipes add coconut. I like to keep it simple.
This recipe is a classic Arabic dessert in that it’s very sweet and rich. It’s meant to be eaten in small doses with a group of friends and family with small cups of Arabic coffee. In a typical Arab home, these types of desserts are served only when there is company over. Otherwise, fresh fruit is generally in order.
This is an eggless cake made with semolina flour. As a result, this is a very dense cake (especially after the syrup is poured on). And, what leavening that takes place (and there isn’t much) happens when the baking soda and baking powder react with the acids in the yogurt.
You can make this cake vegan is you like by using soy or coconut yogurt and vegan margarine. However, I can’t guarantee your results will be quite the same.
Traditionally, the baking dish is greased with 2 tablespoons of tahineh. However, I prefer to use regular pan spray. I find the ease of cleaning outweighs tradition in this case.
This recipe also uses clarified butter and qatr (simple syrup). To see explanations of how to make these, please see my post from October 31, 2013, Knafeh (http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1973).
This recipe is an adaptation from what is, to me, my holy grail of Arabic cookbooks, “Sahtein”. It was originally published in 1976 by the Arab Women Union of Detroit. It was my first Arabic cookbook and still my first go-to for many recipes despite my now 20-book Arabic cookbook library. My mom’s original 1976 printing is held together with rubber bands now.
2 tbsp. Tahineh or use pan spray
4 cups smeed (Semolina سميد )
1 1/4 c. clarified butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 c. laban (yogurt لبن) (I prefer to use full-fat yogurt; I prefer the flavor and texture)
2 tbsp. yogurt
3 c. Qatr (simple syrupقطر)
1/2 c. whole blanched almonds
1. Either grease with the tahineh or spray an 11″ x 17″ baking dish. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the smeed (semolina), sugar, and butter. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, baking soda, and baking powder.
4. Add the yogurt mixture to the smeed mixture. Blend well. It will be a little crumbly and dry-looking.
5. Take the mixture and spread it in the baking dish as evenly as possible. Use your hands if necessary.
6. Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of yogurt evenly over the top of the cake. With a very sharp knife, cut the cake into roughly 2″ pieces either in diamond or square shapes (this is necessary so the syrup will soak evenly into the cake after baking). Top each piece with a blanched almond.
7. Bake the cake in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, rotate the cake and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cake is a golden brown.
Remove the cake from the oven and cut along the original cut lines, if necessary (and it usually is).
8. Pour the qatr over the cake and let it soak in (trust me, it does). When the cake warm to room temperature, it’s ready to eat.