During Ramadan and Eid, the availability of sweet treats is greater than usual. If you are visiting Muslim friends, there are numerous outlets to purchase gift boxes of stuffed dates and baklava. Why not buy a selection just for yourself as well? The suggestions listed below are the perfect ending to a meal, or simply enjoyed with an afternoon cup of tea or Arabic coffee. With so many delicious goodies on offer, the only question is – can you stop at just one piece?
A delicious traditional Arabic dessert, thought to have originated in the city of Nablus. It is made from shredded phyllo pastry – a flour mixture native to the Middle East – and filled with Nabulsi cheese. Kunafa should be eaten hot, straight from the oven if possible, to enjoy the succulent cheese filling and fragrant rose water syrup. Another tip: pour over a spoon or two of extra syrup before diving in.
If you are new to the region and haven’t tasted baklava before, you don’t know what you’re missing. It is a favourite dessert of millions of people around the world and is a great Arabic delicacy. The numerous layers of crisp, flaky pastry are used to create various shapes, nests or fingers and are baked until golden brown. They are then lightly soaked with a homemade syrup, which may be flavoured with orange flower or rose water. The layers of pastry are filled with sticky crushed nuts, usually pistachios. You definitely cannot eat just one!
The abundance of this fruit in the Middle East guarantees a plentiful selection of choices. They are usually eaten plain to break the fast, with an seemingly unending array of types available, the Medjool date being one of the most famous from this region.
Outlets such as Bateel carry a wonderful array of stuffed dates – try them with walnuts, pistachios, pecans, coconut and candied peel. If you don’t want to think about the diet, they are also delicious when generously dipped in semi‐sweet chocolate.
Chocolate dates are extremely easy to make at home and make a fun hostess gift, if you can bear to give them away.
Basboosa and Namoura
A favourite Egyptian sweet but found throughout the Middle East, basboosa is a traditional semolina cake which is soaked in a floral scented syrup. Coconut may be added to the mixture. The simple syrup made from honey or sugar will usually contain orange flower or rose water, making this a wonderfully aromatic delicacy.
Very similar to basboosa is namoura (pictured). This is again a semolina and coconut concoction baked until golden brown and soaked in syrup, usually topped with a single almond or crushed pistachios. This sweet is sometimes also known as harisseh.
A traditional Middle Eastern cookie and often eaten during Ramadan and on other religious occasions. This very popular treat is made using shortbread pastry, a delicious blend of flour, semolina and pure butter, and usually filled with dates or a date paste but sometimes pistachios or walnuts.
They can be found in various styles which are produced in a special wooden mould called a tabi. The demand for ma’amoul is such that they are widely available throughout Qatar, but are also very easy to make yourself. Perfect with mint tea.
Pick up Marhaba issue no 56 Spring/Summer 2013 for only QR20 from any hypermarket or bookstore in Qatar!
For more information on Muslim traditions in Qatar, read Marhaba’s blog post Iftar – Old and New.
Author: Sarah Palmer