… You always need to be writing about something new. This is all very well in the first year of your blog. You have a lifetime of favourite recipes to write about. However, slowly but surely, you exhaust your repertoire. Then what?
Of course, you head for your cookbooks. But first time recipes can be a bit tiring. Often, when there are just the two of you, and you are hungry, you want to whip up something quick or, at least, something you know is going to taste good. If you need some biscuits or a cake, it is so tempting to whip up something you know and love.
A dinner party is a great time to try something new and wonderful but there are serious downsides to trying something new when you have a room full of expectant guests. Firstly, recipes can be downright wrong. Secondly, sometimes you are not quite sure what the author requires of you – what does “stir until thickened” mean in the circumstances and how long will it take to cook and when should you add this or that? Add a generous dose of alcohol into the equation and things can go terribly wrong.
And such nights are not the best time to take an inspired photo. Many a yummy new recipe has gone unreported as I just can’t bring myself to ask those expectant diners to wait until I take 10-20 photos of their rapidly cooling dinner. Consequently, I tend not to anticipate a post from a dinner party menu. That leaves everyday stuff.
For a week or so, Maus had been giving me hints that there were no biscuits in the house. She dare not suggest she buy some. But I knew I could not make ANZAC’s or gingernuts for the umpteenth time. I needed something post-worthy but I was not inspired. Consequently, no biscuits were forthcoming.
Finally, after a week of procrastination, I turned my mind to the task. I went onto Eat Your Books and confined my search to biscuits – there were way too many hits. What now? Then I remembered the abundant supply of semolina I had in the coolroom. I had, mistakenly, bought a kilo of it thinking it was Semola de grano duro rimacinata (remilled semolina flour) and I already had semolina galore. I was on a mission. I wanted a recipe for biscuits made with semolina.
Let me introduce Gh’raybeh (fragrant shortbread biscuits). They sure are fragrant. When I opened the oven to check on them during cooking, I was greeted by a waft of orange blossom and rose perfume. I was a bit taken aback. The blossom waters are, definitely, the overwhelming flavour (both olfactory and taste). They greet you powerfully with the first bite but do mellow and merge after that. I don’t know that I would make Gh’raybeh again but they were very pleasant and disappeared as quickly as would any other biscuits in our house.
With Middle Eastern biscuits, I am never sure what gradation of semolina to use. What does “fine” semolina mean? Maybe I should go to a Middle Eastern grocery store and ask for fine semolina and see what I get… but I have enough semolina as it is. My semolina biscuits usually have a grainy texture – these are no exception. I am guessing that is how they should be.
Anyway, if you like blossom waters and would like to try something different, give these little bites a go. This is the author’s mother’s recipe. She advises the biscuits are nearly as good as the ones she used to buy in Syria. Alas, she may never have an opportunity to buy biscuits in Syria again. Poor Syria.
You can also make round or diamond-shaped Gh’raybeh. Whatever shape you choose, they should always be topped with a nut, either pistachio or blanched almond.
The recipe, by Anissa Helou, is from Levant. It makes about 36 biscuits.
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g icing sugar
- 250g fine semolina
- 2 tbs* orange blossom water
- 2 tbs* rose water
- raw shelled pistachios
*These are 15 mil tablespoons.
- Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Preheat your oven to 170°C.
- Cream the butter and the icing sugar until nice and fluffy.
- Add the semolina and gradually stir in to fully incorporate.
- Add the orange blossom and rose waters and mix until well incorporated. I found my dough was too soft to shape so I added a bit more semolina.
- Pinch off a bit of dough about the size of a walnut and roll into a sausage about 10cm long and 1.5 cm thick.
- Bring the ends together so they overlap. Press together.
- Press a pistachio into the biscuit at the join.
- Place on the prepared tray and bake for about 15 minutes or until cooked but not browned. I found the ones on the edge of the tray cooked quicker than the ones in the centre so I removed them after the 15 minutes and put the tray back in the oven for a few more minutes to finish off the ones in the centre of the tray.