Desserts & Baking

Ma’amoul (cookies stuffed with dates and nuts)

Makes 25

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  • For the pastry
  • 114 g ghee
  • 60 ml lightly flavoured olive oil for cooking
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 2 T rosewater (or orange blossom water)
  • 2 - 4 T milk
  • 200 g fresh dates
  • icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Melt the ghee and set aside to cool a little before adding the oil and the sugar. Place into the mixing bowl of a mixer and add the flour. Mix well using the dough hook. Next, add the rosewater, then the milk, one tablespoon at a time, until a pliable dough forms. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

3. In the meanwhile, chop the dates finely so that they have the consistency of a rough paste. Rub oil on your hands to prevent sticking, then form 25 small balls with the date mixture, and set aside. Do the same with the dough.

4. To make the biscuits, flatten each ball of dough and hold it in the centre of your hand to form a cup. Place the date ball in the centre and bring the edges of the dough together, pinching to seal well.

5. Press into a traditional ma’amoul mould and gently press down to get the patterns on the cookie. Or use a fork to make an interesting pattern. Invert the mould and tap the front end on a hard surface to release the biscuit, while holding the palm of your other hand underneath to catch it.

6. Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the biscuits on the tray, about 2 cm apart. Bake for 15–20 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool.

7. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Ma’amoul are special-occasion cookies, traditionally baked for Easter and Eid. I figure that there are many more special occasions that warrant these delectable treats. Pistachios and walnuts are also used as a stuffing, so I think one can really be creative with these.

If you cannot find or make ghee, then you can use butter. Also, in the absence of lightly flavoured olive oil, you could use vegetable oil.

Extracted with kind permission from Going Home - Food and Stories from Lebanon, the Land of My Forefathers, by Sophia Lindop. Photographs by Hein van Tonder. Published by Annake Muller Publishing. 

Sophia Lindop

Recipe by: Sophia Lindop

Cookbook author Sophia Lindop learnt to cook by watching her Lebanese grandmother and Afrikaans ouma. She grew up on a farm in the Northern Cape and now lives in Cape Town, where she runs Lebanese cooking classes. Find out more about her classes and culinary tours to Lebanon at

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