Namoura, Basbousa, and Harisseh, the Arabic Dessert with Three Names!

Imagine a moist dense cake with the tang of yogurt, the sweetness of honey and a hint of rose. This cake is so popular it goes by three different names all over the Levant. The Lebanese call this cake Namoura, the Palestinians call it Harisseh, and the Egyptians call it Basbousa. No matter what you call this cake, the flavor is universally delicious! White flour is not commonly used in the Middle East, so farina and semolina are used to make this cake instead. These flours provide a grainier and almost nuttier texture, all the better to absorb the fragrant simple syrup.

File May 28, 5 23 15 PM

This cake is perfect for those with egg allergies because no eggs are required. If you don’t have semolina you can use all farina instead, but the cake will be more grainy. What is really wonderful about this cake is that you can make it as sweet as you like by adjusting the amount of “Attar” or sugar syrup to the dessert, through the standard is to literally just drench this cake with syrup until it absorbs all of it. Traditionally each piece of this cake is topped with a blanched almond or a pine nut, but you can use any other nuts you have on hand in your pantry. You can also add any variation of dried fruit, nuts, or coconut in the batter to give the cake a more complex flavor and texture. I really love that tahini is used to grease the pan rather than conventional butter. The tahini gives a nutty flavor to the bottom and edges of the harriseh. I have listed this recipe without all of the extras, because I am a purist, and this is the version I grew up with in my family. Check out my  video below to see the easy technique to making this popular Middle Eastern confection: 

 

 

Ingredients (Directions for this cake are in the video above)

  • Basbousa (Also known as Namoura or Harisseh)
  • Semolina, Farina, and Yogurt Cake
  • 3/4 cup of sugar  
  •    3/4 cup of melted unsalted butter or clarified butter (known as ghee)  
  • 2 cups farina
  • 1  1/2  cups semolina flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 2/3  cups plus 2 tbsp Greek yogurt (do not use nonfat)
  • ½ c blanched whole or slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste available in health and Middle Eastern food stores)
  • 3 cups of Attar (sugar syrup) or according to taste
  • 3  cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 small lemon, juice of
  • Tahini

4 thoughts on “Namoura, Basbousa, and Harisseh, the Arabic Dessert with Three Names!

  1. Made your basbousa for Moroccan food party tonight. Friends agreed that greasing the pan with tahini added special flavor. Thank you for posting.

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