A seasonal recipe

 During the Easter holidays (as well as Muslim holidays), households embark upon the preparation of delicacies. These range from date cookies to loaves of sweet bread, and not to be excluded of course, are the small cakes called ma'moul bi joaz (with walnuts) or ma'moul bi fustoq (with pistachios). Families and neighbours gather around a table and all hands are put to work. Sometimes even men sit amidst the busy women-folk and become part of the assembly line! Pleasant talk and anecdotes furl around the table. Amusing comments range from directives to well-meant criticism of one another's work: is the ma'moul too big? Are the decorations dainty and artistic or unattractive and crude looking? In the midst of all this would be the matronly figure of mother or grandmother administering quality control standards as to exactly how ma'moul should look and taste. I prefer them tiny and mouthful size. I also strongly encourage the use of orange blossom (essence) water (ma-zaher). Check for the wooden mold (press) used to decorate the walnut cakes and the wide metal tweezers used for decorations. Ingredients: 7 cups semolina (smeed) 500 g melted butter 1 2/3 cups orange blossom essence water (ma'-zaher). pinch baking powder Filling: 2 1/2 cups finely ground walnuts or pistachios 1 cup sugar 2 tsp cinnamon (only if using walnuts) tsp ground nutmeg (if desired) Powder sugar for garnish Place the semolina in a large bowl, add butter and mix, rubbing well between the hands. Cover and set aside for two hours or overnight. Combine the filling ingredients and set aside. Add the blossom, water to the semolina and mix well into the dough, rest for 15 minutes. Pinch off a piece the size of a walnut, round it up a bit by rolling it between your hands. Holding it in the palm of one hand, insert the forefinger of your other hand to form as large a cavity as possible. Fill with a small spoonful of filling and seal. Place on a table with the sealed portion down and work with your fingers to give it an upright shape, like a sitting egg. Decorate with the tines of a fork and transfer to an ungreased baking pan, placing the cakes very close to one another- they should be touching for support when baking. Ma'moul may also be pressed into a wooden mold, which gives it the size of the mold or decorated with the metal tweezers. Bake in a 160C oven for 30 minutes or until bottom is lightly golden. Broil tops very lightly. Cool completely, store in an airtight container. Sift with powder sugar before serving. Ma'moul will keep for weeks and freezes exceptionally well. Makes 45-50 cakes. Sahteen (Bon Appetit!)

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