Refraining from food and drink during the course of the day during Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims throughout the world, serves as a reminder of the poverty and need in the world.
Yet Ramadan is also associated, surprisingly, with weight gain, due to the large meals eaten at the end of each day of fasting, which usually include an abundance of traditional sweets.
Nashat Abbas of Sahara Palace restaurant is a prominent figure in the conceptual revolution surrounding Arab cuisine in Israel. Awama (fried dough balls) is usually sweet, and is eaten with a thick coating of sugar syrup. Since Ramadan falls this year precisely in the spring, Abbas chose to combine it with kaymak cream from Kfar Tavor, seasoned with wild fennel, currently in peak season.
300 g flour (2 cups + 2 tsps)
150 ml water (2/3 cup)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cornstarch
15 gm (1 heaping tbsp) dry yeast
Oil for frying
1 kg sugar
½ liter water (2 cups + 2 tbsps)
1 tsp lemon
4 tbsps kaymak or mascarpone cheese
6 wild fennel stalks – if unavailable, you can use stalks from a head of ordinary fennel
4 tbsps sweet cream
2 tbsps finely ground sugar
Preparing the syrup:
In a small pot, heat the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Allow the water to boil for about 3 more minutes, add the lemon and lower the flame. Simmer for a total of about 3 minutes. Remove from the flame and set aside
Preparing the cream:
Grind the fennel stalks in a food processor with the sweet cream and powdered sugar. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer to drain the liquids.
In a mixer bowl, beat the kamyak or mascarpone and add the fennel until they come together in a creamy texture. Taste and sweeten as necessary
Preparing the awama:
In a mixer with a kneading hook mix the yeast and the water. Once the yeast bubbles, add the rest of the ingredients and knead at low speed until a uniform dough comes together (about 7 minutes).
Cover the bowl with the dough in cling wrap and leave at room temperature for an hour or until it doubles in volume.
After the dough has risen, press down on it with your palm to remove the air and allow to rise again, until it doubles in volume.
Heat a pot or a deep skillet with oil for deep frying.
After the dough rises, press down on it with your palm again. Form ping-pong sized balls, and set aside.
When the oil is hot, fry the dough balls until they are golden. Fry in small batches, in order to avoid cooling the oil. The awama will float when ready. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer directly into the syrup. Allow the awama to soak up the syrup for a minute, making sure that they are fully covered. Remove and place on a serving plate.
Garnish with ground pistachios, and serve alongside the kaymak and wild fennel cream.