6 October 2012

Cold and cookery

Contrary to what the picture above may imply with its blue skies and sunny background, the rain seems to have set in for us here in Lebanon.  We are bunkering down for the colder months - storing up the harvest so to speak and searching around for our long sleeves and sweaters.  We've stopped watching the stars at night and started watching the weather channel.  :o)  Kidding.

Working with yarn makes me particularly happy right now.  Something warm and woolly in my hands - a perfect contrast to the chilly weather.  I've even finished my first crocheted mouse!  I think she needs a friend for company, so stayed tuned for round II.  (On a completely random note, those origami bunnies featured below were a rainy day diversion to keep the monkeys occupied until lunch time.)

I love the crisp winds that blow the rain to us.  I love watching the heat of summer being chased away by the cold cleansing rains.  It does my heart good to wear long sleeves again!  I am looking forward to writing about Lebanon in the winter months since it'll be a first for me.  I wonder how it compares to Canada?

Another comfort that comes to mind with cold weather is cream of wheat.  My mom used to make cream of wheat a lot in the winter when we were young.  I liked mine extra creamy with plenty of sugar.  Old habits die hard apparently.  I still prefer my food extra creamy and sweet...

Anyhow, my mother-in-law recently showed me how to make a Lebanese sweet called Smeediyeh.  It is essentially a cream of wheat cake.  And it is D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!  Let me extol its virtues for a brief moment.  It is creamy.  Mmmm-hmmm.  I'm talking somewhat-related-to-cheesecake-creamy.  It is filling in small quantities.  And the sweetness factor is customizable for each serving.  Yup, it's true.  This cake has no sugar in it.  Its sweetness relies on a sugar syrup drizzled on top.  This cake, my friends, is perfect for breakfast, a sweet accompaniment to tea, and, of course, lovely as a dessert.  And since it's been almost a month since I posted a real recipe on this blog (the last entry doesn't really count...), I've decided that I am going to share the recipe with you!  (If you're not Lebanese and you've never tried your semolina this way, you'll thank me later...)


4 cups milk
3/4 cup fine semolina
1 Tbsp rose water

1/2-3/4 cup fine graham cracker crumbs
1/2 Tbsp butter, melted

Take melted butter and pour into bottom of a 9" or 10" round cake pan (rectangular or square work just as well).  Place 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs on the bottom of pan and shake gently until entire bottom is evenly coated.

Place milk, semolina and rose water into large pot and stir well.  Place on med-high heat, stirring frequently until mixture thickens.  Let boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.  Pour this cream of wheat mixture into the pan on top of graham cracker crumbs.  Smooth the top with a spatula.  Sprinkle the remaining graham cracker crumbs even on top.  Place in oven for about 10-12 minutes until top is nicely browned.  (I imagine that you can use the broiler on low for a few minutes towards the end if your oven isn't as cooperative and your cake isn't a toasted golden brown...)

Remove from oven and let sit for about 20 minutes.  Serve warm drizzled with sugar syrup.  (Here, we keep the syrup in a small bottle or gravy-style dish so people can use as much or as little as they like.)

NOTE:  I don't know of anyone who has tried to remove this cake from it's pan.  It's not runny, but it's definitely tricky... probably like trying to remove a cheesecake from a regular pan.  What I think would work perfectly would be a springform pan.  I don't have one, so I can't be 100% sure.  I have seen it served in a glass casserole dish which looks prettier for company, so there's a tip if you are serving it to guests and you don't have a springform pan.

Sugar Syrup (attar)

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 Tbsp rose water
1/2 Tbsp orange blossom water

Heat sugar and water on high until boiling.  Turn heat to low and let boil gently for about 15-20 minutes until syrup is a little "tacky" when placed between two fingers.  (Caution: Syrup is hot! Take a spoon aside and let cool slightly before testing for tackiness.)  Add rose water and orange blossom water, stir.  Serve atop cream of wheat cake.

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