LYBIA

Semolina Cake: Basbousa Bil Tamr

libya2

Ingredients

  • 334g (2 cups) semolina
  • 136g (1 cup) whole grain (or white) flour
  • 60g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut
  • 64g (1/2 cup) muscovado (or white) sugar
  • 245g (1 cup) low-fat (or regular) yogurt
  • 240ml (1 cup) skim (or whole) milk
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 500g date-paste

Decoration

  • blanched almonds (optional)

Preparation

Mix all the liquid ingredients together, and then add them to the dry ingredients.

Brush a rectangle 20×30 dish and spread half of the basbousa mix.

Arrange date paste on top carefully, then cover with the remaining basbousa mix.

With a sharp knife, mark 30 equal squares into the top layer of semolina, decorate each with halved almonds.

Bake in a preheated oven, 200°C, until golden in color. Pass a knife over the squares again, deepening the lines.

Leave to rest before cutting and serving.

*Note: The original recipe finishes off with pouring syrup over the squares while still warm. I omitted this step completely, but I think it would work great with maple or agave syrup, or maybe even warm honey, for those who are looking for a healthier alternative.

libya3

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ANGOLA

I have to admit, I really wasn’t looking forward to Angola, since I thought that the choice of what desert to make from this country would be, well, lame. I the beginning of my research didn’t give me any more optimism either. The first thing I found out about Angolan cuisine was that desserts are not really a part of a traditional Angolan meal. And the majority of sweets that are Angolan were inspired by the western cuisines. In general, since Angola was established as a Portuguese colony, its cuisine is strongly influenced by Portuguese cuisine.

So then what do Angolans eat after a meal, when we westerners feel the strong urge to eat something sweet? Well, the sweets of Mother Nature – fruits.

As I said, there are still some Angolan desserts, but few are actually native to Angola. Some of the more well-known are:

  • Arroz de Coco e Papaia: rice with coconut and papaya
  • Biscoitos De Mel: honey biscuits
  • Bolo de Ananás: Angolan pineapple cake.
  • Cocada Amarela
  • Coconut Dessert Sauté
  • Doce de ginguba: peanut candy.
  • Pavê de ginguba : peanut sponge cake dessert.
  • Pé-de-moleque: peanut-and-caramel candy.

Cocada amarela

Cocada amarela was influenced by the Portuguese cuisine. The literal translation is “yellow coconut”. It consists mainly of coconut and egg yolks, which give the coconut its yellow color. There could be up to 12 egg yolks used for making 6 servings.

Usually, this dessert looks like a type of pudding and is eaten with a spoon. Well, I managed to find an interesting recipe here, which takes this dish into an interesting direction. I followed this recipe because I didn’t know what else to do with the egg whites. So, In this version, the pudding is then put in several small or one big dish, topped with beaten egg whites and baked in the oven for just a couple of minutes.

As always, I alternated the recipe to suit my taste better.

Ingredients:

  • 240ml (1 cup) water
  • 200g (1 cup) sugar
  • 3 cloves
  • meat from 1 fresh coconut, or, in my case, about 200g shredded coconut
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2 egg whites

Preparation:

1. Combine water, sugar & cloves

Boil for about 7-8 minutes, to make syrup. Remove the cloves.

2. Add coconut

Reduce heat to low and gradually stir in the coconut. Simmer 10-12 minutes until coconut becomes translucent, then remove pot from heat.

3. Beat the egg yolks with cinnamon

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with cinnamon until they thicken slightly. Add the coconut mixture, mix well and then cook the whole thing for another 12-15 minutes. Stir constantly.

You can decide to finish the recipe here. Just place cocada amarela into small bowls (like pudding) and serve hot or chilled.

Cocada amarela1

If you wish, you can make a meringue topping, by beating the egg whites, spread them on top of the pudding and bake in the oven for another couple of minutes, at 230°C, until the top is lightly browned.

 

I decided to make a whole pan of this and then cut it into small pieces, because it was easier for me to serve this way. But it doesn’t really look like typical Cocada amarela because of this.

Cocada amarela3

But regardless of what it looks like, this dessert is very sweet and quite heavy, so I recommend you serve it in very small portions. It is delicious, though.

Cocada amarela 4

ALGERIA

I haven’t written anything in a while, because I was really busy, but I have baked quite a lot. And yes, some of the desserts I’ve prepared were also from my list of Desserts from Around the Globe. The next one on my list, after Albania, was Algeria, which, I have to say, I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. The reason is very simple – I really wanted to prepare and eat makrout, which is originally an Algerian pastry, but is also eaten in Tunisia, Marocco and even Lybia.

So this time I reversed my original order of things and first found myself a recipe for makrout (and prepared it) and then did some research on Algerian desserts in general. I discovered that Algerian desserts are made of exotic dried fruits, mainly dates and figs, as well as preserved apricots. And, naturally, makrout is filled with date paste. Other very common desserts are also:

There are many, many more Algerian pastries and if you really want to see how beautiful they can look, check out this blog, since my makroutes are not that pretty.

Makrout (also maqrood, makroudh)

Makrout can be oven baked, fried in oil or baked in a pan. I decided for what I saw as the easiest version and baked them in the oven.

First of all, I have to admit that I’ve never had such problems with preparing a dessert before in my life, and I am usually quite good at baking. But this just seemed like mission impossible. First of all, I made the date paste myself (I just blended 250g of dates and added some water) and it turned out very moist. Definitely not something I could shape in any way. On the other hand, the dough just seemed too dry. I thought that there really was not chance to form this into something resembling a cookie. It was very late, so I gave up and put everything in the fridge (the paste way actually already delicious). And in the morning a miracle happened. My paste was nice and firm and I had no problems shaping it into a log. And to my surprise, the dough actually started looking quite nice, once I added the water (which, at first, I was really skeptical about).

So I roughly followed this recipe, although I made some changes. This is actually exactly what I did:

Ingredients

Dough:
  • 200g semolina
  • 65g flour
  • 80g butter, melted
  • about 1dl warm water
  • 2 tablespoons orange blossom water (optional)
Filling:
  • 250g dates (blended into date paste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 50g dry roasted sesame seeds
Glaze:
  • 200 ml liquid honey

Preparation

Combine the semolina and flour, add the melted butter. The semolina should be coated with melted butter. Keep aside to rest for at least one hour. Or in my case, put it in the fridge over night.

Now the filling. If you don’t have the date paste, just blend the dates and maybe add some water. I am speaking from experience when I say that if you are using homemade date paste, put it in the fridge for a while, especially if it looks too runny to you.

When the paste is of the right texture, dry roast the sesame seeds in a pan. Mix the date paste with cinnamon, butter and the sesame seeds.

Preheat the oven at 200°C.

Take the equivalent of a golf ball of date mixture and roll it into a thin log shape, about 1 /1.5 cm diameter. Repeat will the rest of the date mixture and keep aside.

To finish off the dough, add about 1 dl of warm water (or until you see you have the right texture – not too sticky and not too dry) and, if you have it (I didn’t), 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water.

Keep kneading until the dough is soft and manageable. Take a handful of the dough and roll it. Place one of the date paste log in the middle and roll the dough over it. Press slightly on the top to flatten it. Cut diamond shapes bit and decorate the top. If you have the special makrout mold, use it, or you can do as I did and just experiment a little. I decorated some with an ordinary cookie mold and others by simply making a few cuts on the top. Bake in the oven, for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

In the meantime, warm up the honey in a pan and add the orange blossom water (again, if you have it).

When the makroutes are ready, pour the honey over them. You can also sprinkle them with sesame seeds if you want, but I didn’t (I don’t really know why, I guess I was just tired and had enough of makrout for a while).

Believe it or not, but despite the fact that I didn’t have the orange blossom water, or the right mold and I didn’t add the sesame seeds on the top (or that fact that I had huge problems with my homemade paste), this pastry turned out extremely delicious and quite lovely to look at. Unfortunately, I only have the final photo, since I was too stressed out to take pictures during the preparation.

Makrout

So the lesson learned today is – don’t give up, use your imagination and do the best you can with what you know and what you got. The chances are everything will turn out great after all.