Ma'amoul

Ma'amoul are glorious little stuffed biscuits traditionally served at Easter in Lebanon. They consist of a semolina shortbread case and a filling of either dates, mixed nuts or a combination of the two. Both pastry and filling are perfumed with rosewater and orange blossom water, and the combination of buttery, crumbly pastry and sweet fragranced filling is pure Middle East and ridiculously good - a great Easter treat to put an end to any Lent deprivations.

If you are planning on making a variety of fillings you might want to think about getting a wooden ma'amoul mould. They come in a number of pretty shapes and are a great way for your guests to tell their ma'amoul apart. I have somehow acquired four of them over the years, either bought on Edgware Road or passed on from the family cupboard.

 My ma'amoul moulds

My ma'amoul moulds

When you have hollowed out your dough and filled it with the stuffing of your choice, press the biscuit into the mould and then tap it out.

It seems that there are a thousand different ways to tackle ma'amoul, and this recipe is the result of trial and error over the last few years. Depending on size, filling and preferences you may want to experiment too. Have fun!

MA'AMOUL (makes about 40 biscuits depending on size)

FOR THE PASTRY

500g soft butter

500g fine semolina

500g plain flour

25g caster sugar

125ml rosewater

125ml orange blossom water

Mix the butter with the flour, semolina and sugar and knead for 20 minutes. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 hours. Knead the dough again for 20 minutes, add the rosewater and orange blossom water and then knead again. When the dough is soft and malleable, it's ready to use. Now make the stuffing of your choice, or both.

ALMOND, PISTACHIO & WALNUT STUFFING

200g crushed almond, pistachio and walnut (I run the nuts through a grinder)

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp rosewater

1 tbsp orange blossom water

Combine the ingredients in a bowl, then stuff the mixture into the prepared dough. Do this by taking a walnut size ball of dough and form a small thin bowl shape with your hand. Spoon a small amount of filling into the bowl and then pinch the edges to create a lid that you can fold over to close into a ball. Use the ma'amoul mould to create a shape, or press a fork over the top.

DATE STUFFING

200g soft dates

50g butter

1 tbsp orange blossom water

1 tbsp rosewater 

Combine the ingredients in a food processor. If you don't have a food processor then make sure the dates are finely chopped. Stuff into the dough as above.

 Ma'amoul with almond, pistachio and walnut filling.

Ma'amoul with almond, pistachio and walnut filling.

 Ma'amoul with date filling

Ma'amoul with date filling

Bake the ma'amoul on a lined baking tray for 15-20 minutes. They should remain pale when baked so don't wait for them to turn golden or they'll be overcooked. Allow to cool completely on the tray before removing, and then sprinkle with icing sugar.

 Bon appetite!

Bon appetite!