Almost all Arabic countries have a dessert or baked treat made with toasted flour. Afoosa, from Bahrain, is one such delicacy: the toasted flour is mixed with date paste.
- 200 g (7 oz/1⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 50 g (1¾ oz/⅓ cup) sesame seeds
- 6 cardamom pods
- pinch of saffron
- ½ tbsp sugar
- 200 g (7 oz) unpitted, soft dates such as medjool (or ready-made date paste)
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) fruity extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt flakes
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time: 1-2 hours
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle the flour and sesame seeds onto it in an even layer. Roast the flour mixture in the oven for 2–3 minutes, until golden brown – as it is cooking, move it around the baking tray regularly using a wooden spoon, and keep an eye on it! Transfer the toasted flour mixture to a saucepan.
- Crush the cardamom pods and grind the seeds to a powder using a mortar and pestle (discard the pods). Add the saffron and sugar and grind again. Set aside.
- Steam the dates briefly until just softened. Mash with a fork, or blitz to a smooth paste in a food processor.
- Warm the toasted flour mixture over a low heat and gradually stir in all the olive oil in a thin stream, to create a smooth paste. Add the date paste, cardamom mixture and salt to taste, and continue to stir until the mixture comes together as a dough.
- Line a Swiss roll tin (jelly roll tin) with baking paper and pour in the warm afoosa mixture. Smooth it into an even layer using a spatula, then set aside to cool. Once cool, cut into cubes. Serve with saffron tea. (To make saffron tea, add a pinch of saffron strands to a teapot, pour over boiling water, steep until golden yellow, then strain into cups and serve with sugar cubes.)
Recipe and images from Under the Mediterranean Sun by Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00.