I’m half Arabic and although my mother is English she learnt how to cook from my tayta (grandmother) whilst living in Amman, Jordan for 10 years before moving back to London when she had me and my terrible older brothers. My mother brought Jordan to London and delighted us with home-cooked meals as we grew up just like tayta.
Jordan is such a beautiful country, I have so many memories (mainly of food) of visits when I was a child and more recently as an adult over the last few years. I am by no means fluent in Arabic. But inspired by my mother I love to try and recreate my favourite dishes and bakes that are just not the same here.
This week I attempted Mahmul. My Auntie Wafa sent me a box of these stuffed biscuits, the mould for making them and a recipe that I can only describe as resembling The Great British Bake Off technical challenge. It was meant to be a triumphant start to my blog.. Best laid plans..
As always I got straight on the phone to my mother for some helpful advice. She was in no way helpful.. She read 7 different lists of ingredients from her recipes and had never written down a method. An oven temperature? No.
So. My sister-in-law Rosie once told me that if you want to bake use 160. This stops the top of the cake from burning but cooks it through – I’ve been known to have a burnt top and a soggy middle. I also think she once told me to mix all my wet and dry ingredients separately first. I can work with this. The ingredients has yeast in it so this must be like some kind of bread-biscuit? I beat the butter, added the wet ingredients, then the dry and then the yeast (which I ‘activated’ – essentially put in warm water with sugar) and left it in the Kitchen-Aid to mix whilst I panicked about the filling.
I bought date paste in a Middle Eastern Supermarket in London but you could blend dates. I added rosewater, cinnamon and nutmeg (went a bit off piste with that). I then crushed some walnuts and added sugar and yet more cinnamon.
Back to the dough – despite it having yeast in I didn’t prove it I just went for it. I took a bit of dough and shaped it into a pancake and put some filling on top and shoved it in the clingfilm lined mould. Mother’s only suggestion was to make balls and stick my finger in them and put the filling in the hole but given how useless she was otherwise I chose to ignore her.. Until about an hour in and I got bored and discovered her method was probably better. Anyway. Shove the filled dough in the mould and fold over the excess to cover the filling. The clingfilm helps the dough come out of the mould.
A little dough goes a long way – I halved Auntie’s recipe and still made about 40 pieces. I baked them for 10 minutes at 160 initially.. Then for 20 minutes.. Then for another 5 minutes. At this point they were dark brown when they should be ‘gold’ and when I cut them open they were still a bit raw. So I whacked the oven temperature down and left them.. After a total oven time of 35 minutes I gave up – mainly because my husband came home demanding supper. Below you can see the final result. I was hopeful they would taste better than they looked. But they were dry, there was not enough sugar and they did not melt in my mouth – I actually needed a pint of water to wash them down.
I include the ‘recipe.’ I am not defeated. Watch this blog for Mahmul – The Conquer!