Many people attribute weight gain in Ramadan to the abundance of traditional sweet treats which are unfortunately characteristically not the healthiest (think lots of deep fried batters, cakes and tarts doused in an unnatural amount of syrup).
That said, I can’t deny that I still and probably always will have a soft spot for some traditional Arabic sweets, sweets that carved their way into my heart and (and tummy) way back when in my childhood.
At the top of that list, Basbousa (followed narrowly by Qatayef – but more on those another day). Also sometimes called Hareesa (not to be confused with Harees ), Basbousa is a simple semolina cake, soaked in syrup and gracefully adorned with blanched almonds. It’s exceedingly simple to make, and is only a few standard dairy substitutions away from being vegan. As for healthy – at the end of the day dessert is dessert. It’s not exactly low calorie, but with my amendments you can rest assured this version of Basbousa is definitely healtheir than the average, rich with healthy fats, protein and fibre.
- 1 tbsp tahini, for greasing pan
- 2 cups of semolina flour
- 1 cup of sucanat, unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 a teaspooon of vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of sea salt
- ¾ cup coconut oil or vegetable ghee ( I used half and half)
- ¼ cup soft tofu (silken is best)
- 1 cup unsweetened soymilk
- Blanched halved almonds for garnish
- ¾-1 cup agave syrup as needed
- For the syrup:
- 1 cup of agave syrup
- 1 cup of water
- ½ tsp arrowroot or cornstarch
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- optional: 1 tbsp stevia for a sweeter syrup
- Pre-heat oven to 180 C (350 F) and grease a cake pan with tahini.
- In a large bowl combine semolina, sugar, vanilla, baking powder. Stir in the melted coconut oil or vegetable ghee.
- In a blender or food processor mix the tofu, soy milk and vanilla till blended and smooth. Pour into the rest of the mixture and mix well.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan and smooth surface using a spatula.
- Bake for 15 mins then arrange almonds on top in rows so that when the cake is cut an almond is centered on each piece. Gently press almonds into the cake top then return cake pan to oven and bake for 20 mins or until the top is golden.
- Remove cake pan from oven, turn off the oven, pour warm syrup over cake and return to oven then close the door half-way and let the cake/oven cool.
- Cut into diamond shapes or squares before serving.
And there you have it, healthier, vegan, and naturally sweetened Basbousa. Of course, I think its delicious, but don’t take my word for it. This was friend, mother and basbousa-loving older brother approved.