Smells trigger memory. We know this, and if we weren’t sure we’d only need to think about it… good or bad its true. At the moment, my calamondins are blooming madly right outside my front door, and my front entryway smells like its own little orange blossom special.
These little citrus tree/shrubs grow happily in pots, are a visual treat, and the ping-pong ball sized sour-orange flavored fruit is great for marmalade. But I’m not here today to rave about my calamondins. Its just that when I walked up to my front door the other day I was reminded of namoura.
Namoura is one of those “my grandmother made it this way” recipes that, since the name is transliterated from either Lebanese or Palestinian (depending on whose grandmother we’re referencing, of course) can be spelled (and made) in a number of ways. My recipe is as authentic as anyone’s, as I got it from a neighbor whose husband is Palestinian and he got it from his mother. Beat that! Seriously, this is an easy dessert that is great for pot-luck/bake sale/block party situations. Its easy, and probably takes as long to write out as it does to “assemble”. The final product is a pan of cake-like syrup-laden crusty/creamy bars that are dandy with coffee any time of day.
The baking process is a bit like biscotti, in that it is interrupted midway for cutting, then the pan is returned to the oven for the balance of baking. The combination of ingredients may seem a bit odd, but really, baking with yogurt is no odder than making a sour cream coffee cake. It is very yummy in the end, and even better the second day I think as the flavors have had time to integrate and the syrup has had time to moisten every molecule of the cream of wheat.
Make the syrup first, and while it is simmering, preheat the oven to 350F.
Amounts given here are for 1 9X13 glass baking pan.
for the syrup:
4 C sugar
3 C water
3 T lemon juice (fresh)
1 T rose water*
1 T orange flower water*
Mix all in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir once or twice to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
for the “cake”
4 C “cream of wheat”-style cereal, uncooked
2-1/2 t baking powder
1 stick (1/2 C) butter, melted and slightly cooled
(pinch of salt if using unsalted butter)
2 C plain yogurt (full or low-fat)
1-1/2 C of the syrup from above
blanched almonds for topping (optional)
Grease a 9X13 glass baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cream of wheat, baking powder and salt. Incorporate the yogurt and syrup and mix well (a wooden spoon works nicely). This should make a fairly stiff mixture.
Spread this in the well-buttered pan. Using a chopstick or ruler as a guide, mark out the squares roughly 1.5×1.5 inches to be cut through later. Top each square with an almond if desired. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, cut the squares completely through with a sharp knife, return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and pour the remaining syrup over the entire pan. Let the squares cool completely in the pan. All the syrup should be absorbed.
Serve with coffee and fresh fruit if desired.
*a note on rose water and orange flower water. Both of these are available more and more widely, but if you cannot find them locally they can be ordered online. They keep well (for a *very* long time) after opening as long as they are tightly sealed.
Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!