I don't know about you guys, but when I hear fried dough, my interest is instantly piqued. Awameh or luqmat al-qadi, as some Arabs call it, is one of those desserts that are made across the Middle East. In Arabic, the word "awameh" translates to "to float" or a lifebuoy and I believe this is due to the fact that when fried, the dough puffs up and floats on the surface of the oil. Luqmat al-qadi, which literally translates as "judge's mouthful", was the description used by Muhammad Bin Hasan Al-Baghdadi, who compiled one of the first cookbooks back in 1226, and continues to be used in some Arab countries to this day.
This dessert is so delicious and popular that many other countries make similar versions, particularly Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. It is called loukoumades in Greece, lokma in Turkey, and loukmades in Cyprus.
The concept is simple, a yeast dough that is fried in oil and then dipped in a flavoured syrup. The standard syrup is flavoured with orange blossom, rose water, or lemon, the usual suspects in Middle Eastern desserts. However, you can definitely get creative and use any herb, spice, or fruit you desire.
The best part of this dessert, other than the taste, is the fact that the ingredients are staples everyone has in their pantry, you are not required to buy any special ingredients. This is also what makes it dangerous and deadly, as you can whip some up at any time and I guarantee you will eat them in minutes!
My Awameh making experience was extra special this time around as I was lucky enough to make it with Palestinian chef and cookbook author, Joudie Kalla. This is just a preview of the many scrumptious recipes you can find in her book, coming out this September. It was a blast cooking with Joudie, but we filmed the whole thing, so you don't need to take my word for it, you can see for yourself!
Ingredients – Serves 8-10
- 165g plain flour
- 70g cornflour
- 7g fast-action yeast dissolved in 200ml warm water
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 500g caster sugar
- 300ml water
- Juice of 1 large lemon or 2 small lemons
- 1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional and to taste)
- 400ml vegetable oil (for frying)
1. Mix all the dough ingredients together and whisk by hand or electric mixer until you have removed all the lumps. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise for about one hour.
2. Begin making the syrup. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. Once it starts to thicken, after about 5-8 minutes, add the lemon juice and keep reducing for another 3-4 minutes. You don't want it to get too thick though, as it will continue to thicken as it cools and will be too difficult to be absorbed by the dumplings.
3. Remove the pan from the heat, add the orange blossom and stir through. Set aside until needed.
4. You will know that the dough is ready when it has risen and becomes gooey and gummy. This will be a sticky dough, so do not panic. Once the dough is ready, put the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping in a small spoonful of batter; if the oil sizzles, it's ready.
5. Take a teaspoon of batter and roughly shape into a ball, before dropping into the oil. Keep repeating until you have no more room in the pan. You don't want to crowd the pan so they do not stick together and so that the temperature of the oil doesn't drop, leaving you with greasy donuts. Fry the donuts for about 3-4 minutes, making sure to turn them over, until they turn a golden colour. Once they have hardened and coloured, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan and place in a bowl.
6. You can either drizzle the syrup over the donuts and toss them around to make sure they are completely coated, or simply drop the donuts in the syrup and remove with a slotted spoon.
7. These are best served hot straight from the fryer!