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.
Sabriyah Abu Beri, from the town of Rahat, is an expert on Bedouin sweets. This pastry is considered to be the original Bedouin desert. It is based on hilbe seeds, which are used as part of the syrup. The result: A cake with a unique texture that goes well with a cup of herbal tea.
2 tbsps whole hilbe seeds
½ kg. semolina
1 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp anise
1 tsp dry yeast
1 packet baking powder
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground hilbe powder
For the syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 cup boiling cooking water from the hilbe seeds
1 whole cinnamon stick
Heat a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the hilbe seeds and cook until they swell. Strain and set aside the cooking water.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
Mix the semolina with the olive oil and set aside for a few minutes until the oil absorbs into the semolina. Add the flour, anise, fennel seeds, ground hilbe, yeast, baking powder and sugar, and mix well.
Add 3 tbsps of the cooked hilbe seeds, stir it into the mixture with a spoon and add a dash of the cooking water. Mix well and add a dash of salt. Continue to stir until a dough forms (important: Don’t knead with your hands, stir). If the mixture is too dry add a little water, as needed.
Pour the batter into a large round pan lined with baking paper and flatten with your hands, thinning out the dough as much as possible. Cut diamond-shaped lines in the dough with a pizza cutter and bake for about 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to see whether the cake is golden.
While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup:
In a small pot, bring the cup of hilbe cooking water to a boil once again with a cinnamon stick. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Once the mixture boils, lower the flame and add lemon juice. Remove from heat and cool. When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the cooled syrup over it while it is still very hot. If the cake cools before the syrup is added, heat the syrup and pour over the cake while hot.