Hilbeh means fenugreek in Arabic. My first memory of making this cake was actually in the UK shortly after we moved here. My mum had brought a jar of fenugreek with her from the Middle East and I remember sitting in our sunny dining room sifting through a tray of the seeds to remove any chaff and small stones. You don’t really need to do that anymore, with modern agricultural food practices. Fenugreek came crashing back into my life in a big way three years ago when I struggled to establish breastfeeding with my eldest son, as fenugreek is supposed to support milk production. And eating this cake was certainly no hardship!
My favourite thing about these little buttery, crumbly, fragrant cookies is actually the look on my Mama’s face when she talks about them. She closes her eyes and says ‘hmmmm. They would melt in your mouth. Literally melt in your mouth’ and she talks about her mother’s Ghraiba. Teta shafika was a pro at making these, whipping them up in no time and perfectly shaping them every time. The last time I made these, my mother walked into the kitchen just as I was about to shape the cookies and she told me that her mother always shaped them into S’s, so I decided to do the same and I think I always will now…
One of my most enduring memories growing up was eating hot semolina with honey on cold mornings before school with a lit candle on the table. My mum used to make it almost every day in the winter and now eating semolina takes me right back there. This recipe uses the semolina in a cake, another big hit from my childhood.
When I was younger my mama would finish off most meals with a ‘Tutti Frutti’, a lovely fresh fruit salad as pudding instead of sugar laden cakes. A meal was not complete without one of these and I still always make one as part of my breakfast at the weekend. You don’t really hear the term ‘Tutti Frutti’ anymore, but I have such nostalgia for it that I still use it.
Do you remember my brother, Ewan, who made me a lunchtime falafel wrap? Remember how I told you he was a really good in the kitchen? Well, he made me Baklawa last week, so naturally I photographed him and pinched his recipe to post here for all you wonderful people. These aren’t my Mother’s recipe. When I told her we had made them, she said we were very ‘brave’. She normally gets them from a Middle Eastern bakery, or her local Waitrose. But, I encourage you to be brave and make them.