From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Maakaroon maa Ater — Lebanese Anise Fingers with Rose flavoured Syrup

Maakaroon end result

 We don’t need a special day to gorge on Lebanon’s succulent array of syrupy cakes and puddings.  Well, I don’t anyway.  But even though they are an everyday treat, there are times of year when some specialities are particularly prized.  All the different religions in Lebanon can lead to conflict and war, as they have done in the past, but on the up side they also provide a plethora of holidays.   One of these that I remember from my childhood is Eid el Burbara ( or Barbara).  It’s a Christian feast at the start of December.  It’s evolved into a kind of Lebanese Halloween.  The children wear masks, although they are not meant to frighten anyone.  I used to join in, too, partly because Muslim kids took part even though it was for Christians — and partly because I was going to a convent school so I didn’t have much of an idea what religion I was anyway.  As well as the sweets, there are also little cakes.  Their ingredients are all pretty similar and they all come doused in syrup.  But they have different consistencies and shapes.  One of my favourites is this one.   There is something about the way the syrup flavoured with rosewater or orange blossom sinks into the soft dough that is heavenly.  I had a terribly sweet tooth when I was a child.  I have been fighting it ever since.  But sometimes you just have to hold up a white flag and surrender to the inevitable.

 

Ingredients

For the Maakaroons

Maakaroon frying300g of plain flour
200g semolina
75g fine couscous
1 large spoon caster sugar
1 tea spoon mahlab, If you don’t have it don’t worry
1 tea spoon ground aniseed
1 tea spoon baking powder
1 tea spoon orange blossom water
1/2 glass of warm vegetable oil
1/2 glass of water
For the pattern use a cheese grater, or a strainer
2 glasses of vegetable oil for frying

 

For the Syrup

DSC_0531400g of sugar
2 glasses of water
1 tea spoon of lemon juice
1 tea spoon of rose water
or
1 tea spoon of orange blossom water
(I like to put both)

 

 

Maakaroon dough

  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, semolina, couscous, sugar,Maakroon Dough mahlab, aniseed, baking powder very well
  • Then add the orange blossom water, vegetable oil and water and knead the dough well, for around 5 minutes
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest overnight
  • Once ready to fry the maakroon, heat the vegetable oil in a deep pan, not too large
  • Take a small size dough, no bigger then a walnut, and roll it to make the perfect ball
  • Flatten against the grater or strainer Maakaroon patternto achieve the pattern required
  • You can experiment – and of course practice makes perfect
  • Remove the dough slowly, so you don’t break the pattern and roll both sides to make a round finger
  • Don’t seal the edges
  • Do another few, then deep fry until golden brown
  • Remove the oil pan from the heat if the Makaroons are getting brown very quickly
  • Once ready, drain well and drop the fried fingers in the syrup
  • Leave to cool for 5 minutes, before you move them into a serving plate
  • Do the same with the rest of the dough
  • Serve cold
  • Will make around 20 Maakaroons

DSC_0538

  • In a small pan put the water and sugar and stir well
  • Once it starts to boil, reduce temperature and leave for 30-35 minutes DSC_0545or until the syrup is slightly thicker, runny like honey
  • Add the lemon juice and rose water or orange blossom water
  • Stir well and remove from the heat
  • Leave aside to cool down and use for all sorts of Lebanese puddings
  • It will make around 2 glasses of syrup

 

( a small note:  mahlab is a spice made from cherry seeds. We use it a lot as a flavouring in baking.  But I don’t think it’s essential if it’s too hard to find.)

DSC_0543

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