There are many types of semolina cake, but there is something special about poppy seed cakes, basbousa. The Jewish community of Lebanon thinks so too as these are baked for the festival of Purim. Blue poppy seeds give a pretty speckled appearance, or you can use white poppy seeds.
First make the syrup. Boil the water with the sugar, stirring constantly, until dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice, reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes, until the syrup coats the back of a wooden spoon. Leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 and grease a 20 x 30cm/8 x 12in baking tin.
Cream the butter with the sugar, beat in the poppy seeds and vanilla, and beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the semolina with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and fold it into the creamed mixture, then stir in the yogurt.
Transfer the mixture to the tin, spreading it to the edges. Arrange the almonds on top, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until firm. Pour the syrup over the hot cake. Cut into squares or diamonds and leave to cool in the tin before lifting out.
Extracted from The Lebanese Cookbook by Ghillie Basan, published by Lorenz Books, ISBN 9780754834694, £20
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