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Hilbeh (Fenugreek cake)

Hilbeh (Fenugreek cake) and Besara

Makes 20–24 squares


  • 2 tbsp fenugreek seeds, soaked overnight in water (refresh the water a couple of times to remove any bitterness)
  • 250g medium coarse semolina
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 50ml melted butter
  • 2 tbsp milk powder
  • 80ml warm water
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp black cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • Sugar syrup to drizzle



  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C Fan (210oC/415oF/Gas 6–7).
  2. Drain the soaked fenugreek seeds – they should have swollen in size, which is what we're looking for. Combine the drained seeds in a large bowl with all the remaining ingredients, except the tahini and sugar syrup.
  3. Place the tahini on the base of a cake tin and add the mixture evenly over the top. Cover with a towel and place in a warm area for 30 minutes to rise slightly. Then cut it into diagonal shapes and place in the oven for 30–35 minutes, until golden.
  4. Once cooked, take it out of the oven and drizzle generously with the sugar syrup. Leave for 45 minutes so the syrup can soak through, and then serve.


Serves 4


  • 250g (9oz) dried brown lentils
  • 100ml (31⁄2fl oz) olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 large onion, cut in half, then sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150g (51⁄2oz) dried molokhia (jutes mallow)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 lemon, for squeezing
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped


    1. Put the lentils in a large saucepan of water, bring to the boil, then continue to boil for about 30 minutes
    2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions and garlic until golden. Set aside.
    3. When the lentils have cooked and softened, you should have only half the water volume left in the pan. Add the molokhia (jutes mallow), cumin, coriander and salt and mix together. Add half the fried onions and mix through. Use a handheld blender to purée the mixture. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
    4. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle over some olive oil, squeeze over the lemon juice and garnish with chillies and the remaining fried onion.

Tips: This is best eaten warm but is perfectly delicious cold. I like to eat mine with taboon bread, which is similar to naan bread.

You can use frozen minced molokhia (jutes mallow) if you can't find dried molokhia.

This is traditionally made with broad beans, but it can be made with lentils or chickpeas when broad beans are not available or if it is your preference and it works perfectly well and is equally as delicious, creating a completely different dish in flavour.

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