Rfiss / Tamina with Dates; An easy Algerian sweet of toasted semolina mixed with butter, spices, orange blossom water and date paste.
I’m back today with another semolina recipe. Last week it was couscous – steamed semolina grains and today we are toasting the grains to make dessert!
I discovered this dessert / sweet / halwa a month or so ago, during a conversation with my husband whilst he was eating one of his favourites Tamina – with honey. He mentioned having Tamina ‘balls’ whilst he was in the army, based in or around Tindouf, but that they are made with dates and spices, such as black pepper. Actually he said he couldn’t remember the name of the sweet and that he didn’t really like it because the black pepper flavour was strong.
After asking a few sisters for some help I discovered the name, well many names. The most popular name – Rfiss. It also goes by the names: Rfiss Tounsi – Tunisia, Tamina Betmar, Ta’amir or Qarayf depending on which region of Algeria you’re in.
Famidha’s Batheeth – Emirati no-bake date cookies reminded me I had to try this Algerian no-bake sweet and share it!
This Rfiss is not to be confused with the dessert Rfiss of Constantine, a semolina cake which is crumbled then steamed the same as couscous.
All the Rfiss recipes I’ve found so far on-line are in French and most, if not all do not contain spices or orange blossom water. Therefore, these ingredients are optional but highly recommended. Really I’ve used a light touch with the spices as per my husband’s distaste for black pepper in sweets. You can adjust the quantity according to your taste.
An easy one-pot or pan/skillet dessert and It’s made even easier by the use of shop-bought date paste. You can use the same amount of pitted dry dates, just make sure you steam them for about 20-30 minutes (another reason to buy a Keskas / Couscoussier), until they are soft and then mash with a fork or food processor. As the shop-bought date paste is rather dry, you may find when using steamed pitted dates you can cut back on some of the butter and by all means try using coconut oil instead of butter. Although, that’s not at all authentically used in Algerian desserts.
You can roll this sweet into balls or press it into a mould to shape it. I find the mixture a little tricky to handle when warm and quickly gave up and spooned the most into serving dishes, but it is doable. You may want to let it cool a little first though.
I find Tamina made with dates a pleasant change to the better-known version with honey. In terms of texture, you get added chewiness and it’s this added chewiness that somehow makes me satisfied quicker when eating it, over the regular one.
Given this easy sweet or any of my other recipes a try? Remember I like to see and re-share (with your permission) your recreations of my recipes on Instagram # or @ halalhomecooking.
Algerian Date & Semolina Sweet.
- 300 grams coarse semolina
- 150 grams unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water *
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper *
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom *
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (cassia) *
- 350 grams date paste, broken into small chunks
- In a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat, toast semolina grains, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until golden brown.This should take about 10-15 minutes once the pan has got up-to heat. To achieve a more even golden brown colour across all the semolina grains you can divide the semolina in half and cook it in 2 batches, but this may take more time. Also, you may have to lower the heat once the pan has reached optimal temperature to avoid burning the grains of semolina. Once toasted, carefully - wearing oven gloves if using a skillet, pour the semolina into a large heat-proof bowl or onto a baking sheet. Set aside.
- Turn the heat off to the pan but keeping the pan on the stove, melt butter using the residual heat. You may need to turn the heat back on to low, for all the butter to melt. Add spices and orange blossom water to the pan and mix gently but thoroughly into the butter. If the heat is on, again switch it off, return the semolina to the pan along with date paste and thoroughly mix with a wooden spoon. Once it has cooled enough to handle, bring it together with your hand.
- Spoon into serving dishes and smooth with the back of a spoon or allow it to cool a little longer, then with your hands shape into balls - size of your choosing (mine were around 20-22grams) or press mixture into moulds to shape. You can further decorate if you like: with more cinnamon, roll balls in toasted sesame seeds, add nuts, sugared almonds, silver dragees etc, score / mark with knife or fork to make a pretty pattern.
* optional but recommended ingredients one serving size is 3 Rfiss (Tamina balls) or 66 grams