Friday, May 17, 2013


Do you ever have those moments when you stuff something up without even realising it, but it all works out in the end anyway?  That was the experience I had when I made Basbosa, a traditional Egyptian dessert, using the recipe from Share:  The cookbook that celebrates our common humanityShare is a very special cookbook in that net profits go to support the work of Women for Women International.  It is also a very handsome cookbook, with information and case studies from the various regions where Women for Women operates, interspersed with recipes from chefs and famous people who do charity work, and glorious full page colour photographs.  Some of the recipes are traditional for the region in which they feature, others are most definitely not, meaning there is something for everyone.

I was instantly taken by the recipe for Basbosa, as the accompanying photograph looked delicious, and I was intrigued by something I had never heard of before.  Now, I am not 100% sure whether I stuffed up the recipe or not.  It refers to 240g of cornflour.  In Australia, cornflour means wheaten cornflour, and it struck me that this seemed like a lot of cornflour for the recipe.  However, I made it using the wheaten cornflour, not for a moment thinking anything was not right.  However, the next day, I Googled some other recipes for basbosa (also spelled basbousa, but I use it the way it is spelled in Share), and noticed that most of those recipes used semolina and yoghurt instead of cornflour and cream, as specified by the recipe in Share from Manal Al Sharif (whom I believe to be a Saudi Arabian advocate for women's rights).  Suddenly, the penny dropped - perhaps "cornflour" meant maize flour (cornmeal), not  wheaten cornflour.  The book was published in Britain, and I am sure that the Brits use the term "cornflour" in the same way as Aussies; however, that does not mean that Manal meant it that way, and given that many other recipes use semolina, I have a suspicion that Manal meant cornmeal.

Oh well, it doesn't matter - my version of basbosa seemed to turn out fine, and a couple of people at work said they liked it, so it can't have been all bad, even if I have stuffed up.

I urge you to buy Share, and support a good cause while obtaining a beautiful  and practical book. As a tempter, here is the recipe for basbosa (interpret the reference to cornflour how you will!):

110g melted, cooled butter
2 eggs
225g sugar
3 tablespoons milk
250ml cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
240g cornflour
100g dessicated coconut
75g chopped almonds or pistachios (I used flaked almonds)


225g sugar
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
120ml water

Grease a 20cm x 27cm deep rectangular cake tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  (Note that I found my slice tray to be too low to hold all of the batter - you do need a high-sided tin.)

Pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and add the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, baking powder and vanilla, and beat until smooth.  Fold through the cornflour and coconut then spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin. 

Bake the basbosa in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow the basbosa to cool in the tin until lukewarm.

In the meantime, make the syrup by placing the sugar bringing the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then bringing the mixture to the boil and simmering for 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened.  (I decided mine wasn't thick enough and let it bubble away for 10 minutes  - err, slightly too long, as I ended up with something resembling taffy that I had to reheat to use.) 

Pour the cooled syrup over the lukewarm basbosa and sprinkle to top of the basbosa with the chopped nuts.  Cut the basbosa into squares.