Cultural background

  • Population 18,389,000 people
  • Damascus is the capital of Syria. It is the oldest continuously lived-in city in the whole world.
  • Most people in Syria are Muslim. A few are Jewish or Christian.
  • People in Syria speak Arabic, Armenian, Kurdish, Circassian, Kurdish, French and English.
  • Syria is coastal lowlands, low hills and desert and the country consists 71,498 square miles of land.
  • The western third of the country and the areas of the north and east consist of fertile farmland, part of the area that has been known as “the fertile old crescent”. The Euphrates River flows from Turkey into northeastern Syria and then on to Iraq. The river creates huge areas of fertile farmland, which in recent years have become smaller due to the Turkish dams and the sparse rainfall. The mountain ranges alongside Lebanon in the west and Turkey in the northwestern part of the country get snow in the winter. Southeastern Syria consists of desert, while the western coastline of the Mediterranean has both beaches and one industrial harbor.

Culinary information

Ma’amul is an Arabic shortbread pastry which is very popular in Lebanon and Syria. It is pastry stuffed with dates. The pastry is often eaten during the nights of Ramadan and at Eid holidays.

Cooking time: 1,15 hours

Ma’amul Ingredients:

  • 175g Semolina
  • 20g Plain Flour
  • 45g Caster Sugar
  • 90g Salted Butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Orange Blossom Water
  • 1 tablespoon Rose Water
  • 100g Pistachios
  • 23 g Medjool Dates
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon (ground)

Preparation

Preparation time 1 hour.

Pastry Instructions:

  1. Mix the semolina, plain flour, 20g of caster sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir.
  2. Add butter cuttet in cubes to the flour mixture, work with your fingers until the texture is like breadcrumbs.
  3. Add 1 tablespoons of orange blossom water, ½ tablespoon of rose water and ½ tablespoon of water and use your hands to bring the mixture together into a ball.
  4. Remove to a clean surface and knead the dough gently until smooth, approximately 5 minutes.
  5. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Filling Instructions:

  1. Place the pistachios, dates, 23g caster sugar, cinnamon, ½ tablespoon of orange blossom water and ½ tablespoon of rose water in a food processor bowl.
  2. Blend until you get a coarse paste.

Mould the cookies Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C
  2. Get a bowl of water ready so you can keep your hands damp while you work, is help’s preventing the dough cracks.
  3. Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces.
  4. Take a piece of dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten it in the cup of your hand and turning it around as you do so, use your thumb to press it flat and then lift the edges to shape a little ‘pot’, 2.5cm high in the sides and 3mm thick.
  5. Fill the pastry pot with a tablespoon of the filling.
  6. Pinch the dough over the filling so that the pot is sealed and then gently roll it into a ball again.
  7. Flatten the ball between the palms of our hands, the sides now need to be around 3cm high and, place directly onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper onto the baking tray. Repeat until you have used all the pastry and filling.
  8. Then take a fork and press down gently on the top of each cookie to make patterns with the tines.
  9. Bake for 12-14 minutes. The cookies need to be cooked through without colouring. but care must be taken to stop them taking on any colour.
  10. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool before dousing liberally with icing sugar and serving. Serve lukewarm or cold.

Other aspects

It is important to wash hands before and while cooking. You can keep the Ma’amul in a can.