Namoura is pure romance, pure pleasure, in the way only an Arabic sweet could be. It is rich and dense, semolina crumbling under the tongue, yet chewy and sweet, soaked in sticky flower syrup. Like my turmeric tea cake, the pan is greased with tahini rather than butter, mellowing each bite.
Several months ago, a weekend hankering led to spontaneous namoura baking; the result was divine, though markedly untraditional in its height and lighter texture. Shortly after, my mother mentioned that in fact, my aunt Maha is the family’s reigning queen of this dessert. Naturally, I begged my cousin Heba to extract this secret recipe from her mother.
May I say, my first effort was a fine one. But this, friends, is the real deal. Though she now resides in Memphis, Tennessee, Maha’s heart remains in her native Gaza, Palestine, and it comes through in every bite of this namoura. It is traditional, gentle, and perfect. It’s just what I’d been looking for, under my nose all these years.
The recipe is easily halved, should you desire a smaller batch. The original quantities, just as Maha makes it, are included below.
P.S. it is very worth adding that Maha’s middle daughter, my cousin Nuha, is the fabulously stylish woman behind Habibi. And in February, she became a new mama! Pop over and say hello.
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 4 cups semolina
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp butter, melted (traditionally ghee)
- 1 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 to 1 cup whole skinless almonds
- 3 cups qater (sugar syrup - recipe found here)
- Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 190C / 375F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" x 11" baking pan with tahini.
Combine the semolina, sugar and 1 1/4 cup butter in a large bowl until mostly smooth.
Mix the baking soda and baking powder into the yogurt until incorporated. Add the yogurt mixture to the semolina, and mix well again.
Press the mixture into the baking pan into one even layer. Slice into squares or diamonds (about 1-1/2" squares or to your desired size), pressing an almond into the middle of each square.
Brush the top with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter and bake 35 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Make the syrup (instructions here). Remove the namoura from the oven and pour the syrup all over the top. Allow to sit and absorb for 30 minutes, then serve with tea or coffee.
An original recipe by my aunt Maha Agez.
Audio pairing: Pete Rock, “A Little Soul”