07 Jan Basbousa -The middle eastern Semolina Cake
Basbousa, Harissa, Revani, or simply a Semolina and Curd cake is what this Middle eastern gastronomy dessert can be called as. For simpler terminology, this is a semolina cake drenched in sugar syrup and can be claimed as a very popular dessert treat that has left indelible footprints across the Middle East and some parts of the Mediterranean , Africa and Europe as well.
Semolina sweet delicacies are a familiar sight across restaurants in the Middle East. With regions, the names and texture seems to vary basis the cultural food traditions , however, the base of semolina and curd remaining the same.My recipe is the Egyptian Basbousa version of the semolina cake today, a delight that’s popular across Egypt. In Greece and Turkey, the same cake with slight changes is called as Revani.
Basbousa , in Arabic language is a simple semolina and yogurt cake featuring coconut that is soaked in sugar syrup . Ideally Basbousa as a term in the Arabic Dictionary is known to be understood as “something sweet”. That’s how probably , the origin of this flavorful dessert is related to a sweet dessert.
Nevertheless, there are myriad ways of preparing the best of Basbousa recipe with a blend of varied flavors that conjure up in making the most decadent Bascousa with a distinct taste and perceptible flavor .While some recipes call for the use of eggs, some are eggless, like mine is an eggless version.Likewise, some renditions use a syrup flavored with rosewater or orange peel, while still others use a flavor derived from spices like cinnamon.
Mine is a classic one today, eggless version with a generous amount of coconut , and a sugar syrup made with few drops of rose water.The resultant delight is a beautifully created soft, moist yet dense and sandy sweet cake .The coconut semolina curd and butter works beautifully to create magic, with a beautiful blend of semolina and the dominating coconut.
Well come to think of it, travelling back home, in a layman’s language this can very well cross paths with our Suji(Semolina ) cake, without the sugar syrup. The suji cake is a step down simpler broken into just few ingredients of Suji, curd, sugar,oil and baking powder.A simple cake made with suji, sugar,curd and oil, it forms the crux of a basic Suji cake that we call so in India
So Middle East or India, Suji or semolina cake trends on familiar pattern of delicious desserts served . I like to relish my share with a cup of tea at times and even as a dessert after meals.
Filled with flavor and dramatic amalgamation of the sugar syrup into the baked Basbousa, this gorgeous cake is a mix of sweetness from the coconut and sugar syrup that cuts through the sourness of the curd if any ;and balances the taste , while the crunch of the semolina and the coconut lends a beautiful chewy texture. With a copious amount of coconut, its has a subtle domineering touch to the overall cake.
Depending on what type of semolina you use, the texture might change, however I mostly love the fine semolina, which I use often for other Indian delicacies like Upma and Sheera as well. Its gives out a smooth and soft texture that completely absorbs the sugar syrup thus soaking in the flavorful rose water infused sugar syrup and working out a delectable soft Basbousa.
Garnish it with some flaked almonds and desiccated coconut like I do and prepare to surrender your taste-buds to this beautiful middle eastern sweet delight of indulgence.
- Semolina 2 cups( cup size 250 ml)
- Curd 1 cup
- Coconut ¾th cup
- baking powder 1 tsp(you can use soda as well, but i prefer baking powder)
- Milk ¼th cup or if the batter thickens, you can add ⅓rd cup
- Butter ½ cup
- Sugar 1 cup
- ⅓ cup flaked almonds for garnish
- For Sugar Syrup
- Sugar 1½ cup
- Water 1½ cup
- Rose Water 1 - 2 tsp
- lemon juice- ¼ tsp
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F ( 175 degrees C) for 10 minutes
- In a mixing bowl, add sugar and yogurt. Blend. Add butter and blend again
- Add the semolina, coconut ,baking powder and milk. Mix well with a spatula
- Transfer to a 8x 8 inch round baking tray(greased)
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
- If the top has still not browned then you might change the temperature settings "top power only" for 5 minutes or turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the top is slightly browned
- While it is baking , make the sugar syrup by adding water and sugar on high heat. Bring to a boil, add rose water and turn the heat to low flame and let cook for a few minutes until the syrup marginally thickens.
- Remove from the flame and add the lemon juice..Let it cool
- As soon as you remove the basbousa from the oven, pour the cooled sugar syrup over it and let it absorb the syrup.
- Let the cake sit for an hour or two before serving so that the syrup completely soaks into the cake.
- Cut into diamons or squares and serve with garnish of almonds and desiccated coconut on top