What is mamounia?
Mamounia is the dessert that serves as the iconic Syrian breakfast. It consists of a roasted semolina cream that comes straight from Aleppo, Syria and is rarely found anywhere else in the world. Mamounia, also called mamouniye, mamounieh or mamouniyeh, is served for breakfast but it is also served at weddings and special occasions.
The texture of mamounia
Mamounia is served barely warm. It is the typical comforting breakfast: it warms the heart in the morning.
Mamounia has the consistency of a porridge or pudding. But it can also be served a little more compact and dense, once cooled.
The consistency of this roasted semolina porridge varies from one house to another. There are several recipes but the only difference is the amount of water that is boiled with the sugar. For a more liquid consistency, add an extra cup of water to this recipe. But the perfect consistency of the mamounia should be halfway between the porridge and the cake. Also, some generously perfume the sugar syrup with rose water.
How to decorate the mamounia
There are many ways to decorate a mamounia. Pine nuts and pistachios are the most commonly used nuts. Pine nuts are very common in the Middle East: there are plenty of them and they are often used to decorate desserts. However, it is not uncommon to find mamounia decorated with walnuts or coconut too.
Semolina cakes and puddings around the world
The closest variant to mamounia is semolina pudding (or semolina porridge). This is a childhood dessert that is very quick to make. It comes in the form of a semolina porridge or cake. Its mode of preparation is identical to that of mamounia. However, it is not necessary to roast the semolina, which gives a very white color to this dessert as well as a sweeter flavor.
Semolina pudding is widespread in Europe: it is a dessert made with semolina that is cooked in milk and sugar. Raisins, vanilla, jam or cinnamon are added. Its preparation is quick. Also, once cooked, the semolina mixture is poured immediately into small ramekins or into a large cake pan. It is served cold or lukewarm.
It is very popular in the Central European region. It is called krupičná kaše in the Czech Republic and krupicová kaša in Slovakia. It is known as tejbegríz or tejbedara in Hungary, and manų košė in Lithuania. In Romania, the semolina pudding is called griş cu lapte.
Millet semolina cake is a popular recipe from Vendée in France. It was very widespread in Vendée and Gascony. This cake hasn’t been as popular since the 1960s though, as people stopped growing millet in these areas. Millet is rich in protein.
The millet semolina cake is prepared in the same way as the mamounia. It is a dish of cereals that is consumed hot or cold. The cake is cut into slices and browned in butter. It is common to find it decorated with icing sugar. It is also known as “millet au lait” or “gâteau de mil”.
Also, basboussa is a typical semolina cake from the Middle East. It is called revani in Greece and Turkey. In the Maghreb, it is called harissa (harissa hloua or aricha). But all these pastries are cousins. The basboussa (or besboussa) is a semolina cake made from fine wheat semolina that is covered with an orange blossom sugar syrup.
Nemura is a very popular semolina cake in Lebanon. It looks like basboussa. The little difference is a soft texture that melts in the mouth. Its peculiarity lies in the introduction of pistachio powder or crushed pistachios, as well as natural yogurt, coconut and candied orange powder in its preparation. Sometimes people add sesame paste (tahini) for an even smoother texture. When out of the oven, the nemoura is generously covered with a sugar syrup perfumed with orange blossom. It is then sprinkled with cinnamon, cloves and orange blossom water.
Note also the famous rava kesari, this dessert from southern India prepared with semolina, often including fruits such as pineapple or banana, which is an adaptation of an ottoman dessert called irmik helvası or semolina halva.
We warmly invite you to try this quick recipe of mamounia which however requires a few tricks: it is absolutely necessary to roast the semolina over low heat so that it develops all its aroma. Just be careful not to burn it.
- 1 cup medium wheat semolina
- ½ cup samneh ghee or clarified butter
- 4 cups water
- 1¼ cup caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon samneh ghee or clarified butter
- ¾ cup pine nuts and/or pistachios
- Melt the tablespoon of clarified butter in a skillet and brown the pine nuts and/or pistachios. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, add the water and sugar. As soon as the mixture starts to boil, turn off the heat. Set aside.
- In a frying pan, melt the ½ cup of clarified butter. As soon as the butter starts to melt, add all the semolina at once. Mix well and stir constantly with a spatula for about 10 minutes on medium/low heat. The semolina must take a caramel color.
- Put the pan of water and sugar on a medium heat and when it starts to boil, pour it over the roasted semolina. Mix well and lower the heat.
- Simmer on low heat for 2 minutes maximum. The resulting mixture should have the texture of a thick cream.
- Pour immediately into a deep plate or a bowl.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with toasted pistachios and/or pine nuts.