This rich Lebanese dessert is traditionally made using clotted cream, while some cooks use whipped ricotta sweetened with sugar and flavoured with orange blossom water. Needless to say, versions abound, but the condensed milk cream in this recipe works super-well. This dessert isn’t particularly hard to make (don’t be put off by the long roasting time for the semolina) but it is important that the syrup and semolina be completely cool when combined, or the semolina layer will set rock hard.
- 230 g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 125 ml (½ cup) water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp rosewater
- 250 g (2 cups) fine semolina
- 125 g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 100 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 280 g (2 cups) mixed roasted unsalted nuts (such as cashews, almonds and pistachios), coarsely chopped
- 1 x 395g can condensed milk
- 80 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
- 625 ml (2½ cups) water
- 80 g (⅔ cup) cornflour
- 2½ tbsp rosewater
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.
Combine the caster sugar and water in a saucepan and bring slowly to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Cook for about 7 minutes or until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat then add the lemon juice and rosewater. Cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Spread the semolina over the base of a large baking dish. Bake for about 1½ hours, stirring often, or until the semolina is deep golden and smells very nutty. Take care not to let it burn during the last 10 minutes or so. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.
Add the icing sugar and cardamom to the semolina and stir to mix well. Add the cooled, melted butter then, using clean hands, mix to combine well. Add the cooled syrup, then use your hands to mix until a smooth paste forms. Press the mixture evenly over the base of a platter 28 cm long and 16 cm at its widest.
For the cream, combine the condensed milk with the sugar and 500 ml (2 cups) of the water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Combine the remaining water with the cornflour in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Whisking constantly, add the cornflour mixture to the simmering mixture and cook for about 4 minutes, whisking constantly to prevent lumps forming, until simmering and very thick. Remove from the heat and cool, whisking occasionally so mixture remains smooth. Stir in the rosewater. Spoon the cream over the semolina base, scatter over the nuts and serve.
Photography, styling and food preparation by china squirrel.
When she doesn’t have her head in the pantry cupboard, Leanne Kitchen finds time to photograph food and write cookbooks. You can view her work on her website.