We all have dishes we associate with specific people and many of my traditional recipes are associated with a grandmother, aunt, or another relative. Funnily enough, today's recipe is not only associated with my grandmother – growing up I didn't know many people who knew it – but it was only recently that I realised my grandmother had been taking a genius shortcut and was using spring roll wrappers instead of making the dough! I am used to being the one coming up with shortcuts for things and trying to make recipes as quick and easy as possible, but this is the one time I am going to say that although the shortcut is great and I grew up loving it, I feel like making the dough yourself makes the dish much better and is super easy, so it is definitely worth it!
When people hear the name of this recipe, they think it is associated with dates because the Arabic word for date is tamr, but it actually has no dates in it. There are many stories about where the name comes from, some say the man who created the dish came from the city of Tamra to Nablus, where Tamriyah is most popular, and it was therefore named after the city. Others say the name comes from the verb "tamara" which means to cover something, describing how each piece is covered in oil when it is fried, as many Middle Eastern dishes are named after the way they are made. It is also said to have originated in Damascus and to have been brought over to the city of Nablus, which is called "Little Damascus", where they made it their own by having it as a breakfast staple instead of as a dessert. It is especially popular on Friday mornings, when the whole family is gathered together to enjoy it.
While you can definitely take my grandmother's shortcut and make this with spring roll wrappers, I find that making your own dough is really easy and gives you a dough with a bit more substance, while the spring rolls will give you a super crispy texture, so it is really up to preference. The dough couldn't be easier, just mix all the ingredients together and leave it to rest for at least half an hour so that it is easy to roll out super thin. Make sure you add the water gradually, so you don't end up with a watery dough, but if your dough is too sticky, don't worry. Just knead in a bit more flour until you get a soft dough. The filling is also very simple to make, just make sure you mix the water, semolina and sugar together until combined before you put it on the heat to avoid any lumps. It may seem too watery in the beginning, but don't worry, it will thicken as it comes to the boil. I don't like my filling to be too sweet but give your filling a taste and add a little more sugar if you prefer it sweeter. I like to brush my plate with some oil before pouring in the filling, so it is easy to remove, and cutting them into squares helps measure out an equal amount for each ball of dough.
Shorbet shi'iriyeh bil lahmeh (vermicelli and meat soup)
When it comes to frying these, you want to make sure your oil is hot enough, but that the heat isn't too high, otherwise your dough will brown but still be raw on the inside. Place these on a cooling rack instead of paper towels to get rid of the excess oil, without them becoming soggy on the bottom. Dust with a generous amount of icing sugar and eat straight away, but I find the hardest part about this recipe not eating them all as I'm still frying them!
Ingredients- Makes 8
1.5 cups flour
1.5 tbsp oil
Pinch of salt
½ cup water (you might need a little more or less depending on your flour)
½ cup semolina
½ cup sugar
2 cups water
½ tbsp orange blossom water
Oil for frying
Icing sugar to garnish
- To make the filling, mix the semolina, sugar and water in a small pot until combined. Then place on the heat and cook on medium heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens, remove from the heat and add in the orange blossom water.
- Transfer into a lightly greased plate or tray and allow to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. This can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in the fridge.
- For the dough, combine the flour, salt and oil in a large bowl. Gradually add in the water and knead until a soft dough forms. You may use more or less water, depending on your flour. If it is too dry, add in a bit of water at a time until a dough is formed. If it is too wet, knead in a bit more flour until the dough is no longer very sticky. Grease the bowl and divide the dough into four equal-sized balls. Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
- Cut your filling into medium sized squares, ready to place in the centre of your dough.
- Cut each of the 4 dough balls in half and roll out the dough into a square, you want the dough to be as thin as possible, without tearing it.
- Place a square of filling in the middle, then bring in each of the dough corners into the centre, having the edges overlap slightly. You should end up with square of dough with the filling in the middle. Press with your hand to flatten and spread the filling.
- Heat your oil and fry the squares until golden brown, turning them over halfway to cook both sides. Do not overcrowd your pan, otherwise they will not crisp up and will absorb too much oil.
- Once they're ready, place on some kitchen towel or cooling rack, and garnish with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar. I also like to add some ground pistachios. Enjoy!
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