Middle Eastern and North African food is just fascinating. Logic dictates that its influences should be from both from Western Europe on the one hand and from Asia on the other. It seems to me that it is exactly the case although the ancient history of the region suggests it was always a two way process.
The spicing of course tends to be more familiar to Asian tastes but without doubt the baking seems to have much more in common with the west. Flatbreads however seem to be firmly in the eastern half of influence with naan bread, chapatis, khobz and pitta typical examples.
A common thread with so many delicious Middle Eastern cakes and pastries is that the finished article is often soaked or drizzled with a sweet syrup of one kind or another.
Todays offering is no exception where these delicate little cakes are drizzled with a lemon syrup. Yes, I suppose it is a 'lemon drizzle cake' of sorts but the textures and flavours are more complex with the addition of olive oil as the 'fat' and the flours are a combination of semolina, almond and just a little wheat flour. As you will see however the wheat flour is small in quantity and therefore to make these cakes gluten free would be simple by adding an alternative.
Lemon, Olive Oil & Yoghurt Cakes
125g plain olive oil
100g caster sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 whole eggs
25g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
125g semolina flour
100g ground almonds
3 tbsp lemon juice
For the syrup.......125g lemon juice and 90g caster sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Whisk together the olive oil and sugar for a couple of minutes until it becomes pale. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Now fold in all the flours and baking powder until they are well combined and add the lemon juice and yoghurt, again making sure all is well incorporated.
Using any small but deep rectangular tins which have been lightly greased, pour in the mixture until two thirds full.
Place the tins into the pre-heated oven on a middle shelf and bake for 20-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Whilst the cakes are baking make the syrup by combining the lemon juice and sugar and boil for three or four minutes. As soon as the cake are ready and still hot in their tins remove from the oven and pour the syrup equally over the cakes. You may make a few small holes with a skewer to aid the process.
Cool and turn out. Eat immediately with a generous dollop of cream, creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt. Store in an air tight tin or plastic box. They will keep for three or four days and remain moist.