In the Maronite calendar on 4 December we commemorate the life of the fourth century martyr, Saint Barbara. She was the daughter of a rich man Dioscorus who wanted to keep her from the outside world and so locked her in a tower. They lived in Heliopolis which is modern day Baalbek in Lebanon. Barbara secretly became a Christian and had three windows put in the tower to honour the trinity. Her father soon learnt about her conversion and drew his sword to kill her. She fled and hid in the hills, her father soon found her and she was tortured before he beheaded her.
Maronites in Lebanon celebrate her feast, known as Eid el Burbara, by making certain sweets made of boiled wheat, grain and fruit, as well as a dish known as Ehtayef (Atayef) and Ameh. Children dress up in disguises and go door to door singing songs and receiving sweets. This tradition recollects that Saint Barbara disguised herself to hide from the Romans and her father when she fled.
Below are recipes of the sweets made on this feast. We hope you enjoy cooking and sharing this tradition with your family.
2 Cups whole wheat grains (ameh)
10 cups of water
½ cup shaved coconut
1 Cup of Walnuts/almonds/dried sultanas
½ cup sugar
1 tsp rosewater
- Soak the grains in a bowl of water overnight.
- Place the grains and water in a pot and start boiling. Bring the pot to the boil then simmer until the grains are tender. This could take up to 2 hours, if you think it is drying add water constantly.
- Strain the wheat and let them cool, add the rosewater.
- Place the wheat in a small bowl, sprinkle sugar and shaved coconut, then add almonds, walnuts and raisins.
3 cups Flour
3 cups milk
1tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
½ tbsp rosewater
½ tbsp. orange blossom (optional)
- Blend or crush the walnuts to desired size for the filling, combine with sugar and rose water, optional orange blossom and set aside.
- mix the dry ingredients, add the milk and whisk until smooth
- heat the pan (if non stick add spray oil) scoop a tablespoon of the mixture into the pan and reduce the heat to medium.
- Wait for the bubbles to appear and then flip it like a pancake.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Scoop filling on one side of the pancake, close one end of the dough and press it to seal it shut, it should now look like a stuffed semi circle.
- Christina Maksisi
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