Fatimah’s Lebanese Semolina Turmeric Sfouf
Mum and dad both grew up in Tripoli on the north-west coast of Lebanon. Tripoli has a lot of Syrian influence and I think it’s fair to say our sweet pastries are probably the best in the Middle East.
My parents met in Australia after both fleeing from Lebanon due to the civil war in the 70s. I have fond childhood memories of learning about my culture and what it was like for my parents growing up in Tripoli. They shared their family cooking traditions with me and I spent many of my days in the kitchen helping my mother, who taught me so much.
Mum is a fantastic cook and there is only one person I can hand on heart say is better than my mum at cooking and that is her mother – my maternal grandmother. My grandmother fled Lebanon at the same time as my mother and she and her cooking were big influences on me as I grew up. Even in old age, there wasn’t a time you wouldn’t find various Middle Eastern sweets in containers on her kitchen bench. From Shortbread Almond cookies to Barazehs (sesame and pistachio biscuits) to Sfouf, a “Lebanon Cake” – a not-too-sweet orange-coloured Semolina Turmeric Cake which I love.
My grandmother loved all things orange. She adored Indian culture and maybe that’s the reason she often encouraged my mother to apply henna to our hair when we were young. I grew to love turmeric. Not only is it a natural anti-inflammatory but the intensity of its burnt orange shade makes for a beautiful richly coloured cake. Even now, seeing the orange and yellow tones fills me with joy. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of the colour of the sun and its warmth; perhaps because it’s the complete opposite to the dark; perhaps because it reminds me so much of my grandmother…
It’s also really easy and creates minimal washing-up! Using only a few ingredients that most Lebanese households have stocked in their kitchens, Sfouf only requires a bowl and spoon from start to finish.
“Sfouf” is the Arabic word for ‘lines’ or ‘rows’ and refers to the way we cut the cake into squares or diamonds once it’s baked and cooled down. The simple decoration of almonds or other nuts can also be laid out in rows but you don’t need to be that particular.
Simple ingredients, simple method and an even more simple decoration of almond flakes, Sfouf is a beautiful and light fluffy cake that is perfect for those who prefer a less sweet dessert and want to be reminded of long summer days. Because it isn’t too sweet and you can tell yourself that the turmeric is good for you, it’s also ideal for pre-dawn breakfast or for iftar at sunset when we break our fast during Ramadan.
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Preheat oven to 170 degrees
Brush a baking pan with tahini. Put aside.
In a bowl, mix the flour, semolina, sugar, baking powder and turmeric till all combined. Add the milk and oil. Mix thoroughly and pour in to pan. Scatter the top with nuts.
Bake for approximately 35 min or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting it into squares or diamonds.