Asma, a Kurdish lady we love and admire, made this one fine morning in Beirut. After one bite, I was enraptured.
Mamounieh is a breakfast dish and a specialty from Aleppo.
It is semolina, toasted in clarified butter on the stove till its nutty flavor is released, then cooked for mere minutes in sweet water till creamy and porridge-like. Traditionally garnished with cinnamon and caramelized pine nuts.
Asma made it by adding string cheese to it, which is traditional as well.
Visiting Alépine‘s blog, I saw that in Aleppo it is served with pita bread. I like mine just plain, with cheese and cream on the side. The cream I use is found in all Middle-Eastern groceries; it comes from Denmark and is called Puck. A good substitute would be mascarpone or even sour cream.
Time to prepare: 15 minutes.
INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings
- 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter (50 g.), preferably clarified
- 1/2 cup+1 teaspoon of fine semolina (100 g.)
- 16 ounces of water (1 pint or 500ml.)
- 1/2 cup of sugar (110 g.)
- 1/4 teaspoon of mahlab (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water or rose water
- Optional garnishes:
- 1/4 cup of dried apricots (30 g.)
- 1/4 cup of pistachios or pine nuts (30 g.)
- 1 cup of white (melting) cheese (mozzarella or other)
- A few dollops of Puck or Quark cheese (optional) or mascarpone or sour cream
- Get two saucepans ready. One will be used to make the syrup and the other (which should be bigger) to cook the pudding. Pour the sugar and water in one saucepan and bring to a simmer, while stirring. As soon as it simmers, turn off the heat.
- Melt the butter in the other pot and when it is melted add the semolina. Stir the semolina with a wooden spoon until it gets toasted, or a light caramel color. (This will take a few minutes). Heat the syrup till the simmering point; pour the syrup gradually over the semolina while stirring. Keep stirring the semolina until it thickens, which should take no more than 3 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the cheese and keep stirring to melt the cheese. Remove from the heat and pour into a serving platter or several small ramequins. Garnish with nuts and dried fruits if desired and serve warm.
NOTE: The dried apricots can be plumped up during the day; simply pour some very hot water on the apricots in a small bowl and let them absorb the water and soften for a few hours; drain and cut them up for garnish.
The best cheese is either a string cheese or a mozzarella or any cheese that will melt nicely in contact with the heat and that is not too salty. I soak the string cheese in water a day ahead, changing the water every few hours, until the cheese loses all its salt. You can do the same with the mozzarella if it is too salty. (Or keep it salty if you prefer).
In this pudding, the cheese is optional and can be omitted.
Nada Saleh in her Splendors of the Levant, adds mahlab to her mamounieh; since I love mahlab, I did too.