Pascale’s Kitchen: Winter treats made with semolina

This week, I am bringing you three recipes made with semolina that are perfect for eating on cold winter days.

 Spicy semolina porridge with smoked fish (Aseda Urenga) (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Spicy semolina porridge with smoked fish (Aseda Urenga)
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

On cold winter days, the best place to hang out with family is in a warm kitchen. At this time of year, I love making thick soups and stews for my family or baking cakes and cookies – perfect for dipping in a piping hot cup of tea or coffee or cocoa.

One evening last week, I was lounging around in my kitchen with a few girlfriends whom I’ve known since I was little. As we waited for another batch of cookies to bake, one of my friends mentioned how she used to love coming over to my house, where my mother would serve us semolina porridge. She went on and on about how good she felt after eating my mom’s porridge. She said she’d love to try making it herself but was put off by all the calories. 

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As she reminisced, I too recalled how I felt when my mother made us semolina porridge. My family didn’t eat sweet stuff very often – in the main, my mother seasoned everything with spicy paprika, harissa, garlic, caraway seeds and cumin. The juxtaposition of these spices with the smooth porridge was absolutely heavenly. 

Up until now, I’d never really noticed how semolina porridge had played such a central role in North African cuisine. It can be prepared as savory or sweet, with smoked fish or coconut flakes. Moreover, many cookies are also made with semolina, such as makroud cookies, which are filled with date cream and covered in an aromatic citrus syrup. 

This week, I am bringing you three recipes made with semolina that are perfect for eating on cold winter days. The first one is a thick porridge made with harissa; the second is a porridge prepared with smoked fish; and the third is a simple semolina cake made with orange juice.

 Semolina porridge (Hashua/Lahso) (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Semolina porridge (Hashua/Lahso) (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Semolina porridge (Hashua/Lahso)

Makes 4 servings.

  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • ¼ tsp. harissa or spicy paprika
  • ½ tsp. caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
  • ½ head of garlic, chopped
  • 2 soft tomatoes
  • 1 cup semolina

Serving suggestion: 

  • Cilantro or fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a pot and add the harissa, caraway seeds, salt and garlic. 

Cut the tomatoes into small pieces, then add them to the pot with ¼ cup water. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. 

Add 6 cups of water so that the water covers the lower half of the pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, add the semolina, while stirring constantly. Keep stirring and cook over low heat until the mixture boils.

If you wish, you can add chopped cilantro and parsley. You can also add ½ cup of scallion chopped finely and ½ a teaspoon of cumin. 

If you want the porridge to be lighter in color, you can leave out the harissa. If you want it to be even darker red, you can add 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Alternatively, you can add 1 tablespoon of soup powder in place of the harissa. 

Level of difficulty: EasyTime: 20 minutesStatus: Parve

Spicy semolina porridge with smoked fish (Aseda Urenga)

This porridge is traditionally served on cold winter mornings. Some families prepare Aseda porridge with flour, but in my home we made it with semolina, spicy sauce, smoked fish and lots of garlic. This dish is very filling and one of my favorite comfort foods. It is traditionally made with renga herring, palamida or mackerel, but you can also use anchovies, sardines or fish eggs. 

Makes 6 servings. 

  • 6 cups water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ cups semolina


  • 5 Tbsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. ground caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pilpelchuma
  • ¼ tsp. spicy paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 10 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 smoked fish (250 gr.), cut into small strips

Pour the water into a medium pot. Add the salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. While stirring vigorously, add the semolina. Continue stirring while it cooks and the liquid absorbs, which should take around 10 minutes.

One way to check if the porridge is ready is by getting your finger wet and then touching the porridge gently. If it’s sticky, it’s not ready yet, and you should continue cooking it and stirring every once in a while. If the porridge does not stick to your finger, then it’s ready. 

To prepare the sauce: Add the oil, caraway, salt, pilpelchuma, spicy paprika, tomato paste and garlic to a medium pot. Stir the contents, then add the lemon juice and water. Add the fish and another ¼ cup of water. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. 

When you’re ready to eat, spoon out 2 or 3 spoonfuls of the porridge into each bowl. Make a well in the center, then add 1 or 2 spoonfuls of sauce into the center. Drizzle another spoonful of sauce all around the porridge. 

Level of difficulty: Easy-mediumTime: 40 minutesStatus: Parve

 Semolina cake a la Pascale  (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Semolina cake a la Pascale  (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Semolina cake a la Pascale 

I developed the recipe for this semolina cake in my kitchen over years of trial and error. It’s a little lighter than the others and can be made quickly. The combination of the semolina and the orange juice is perfect for making cake in the winter – even more perfect than apple pie.

Use a 27cm x 35cm pan.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 1 ½ cups semolina
  • 2 Tbsp. ground almonds
  • 1 Tbsp. raisins
  • 2 packets baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup oil
  • 6 eggs


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice


  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup ground almonds

Put the sugar, coconut, flour and semolina in the mixer and mix on low. Add the almonds, raisins and baking powder and mix again. 

While mixing, gradually add a little bit of the orange juice, oil and eggs. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a greased pan and bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 30 minutes. 

To prepare the syrup: Add the sugar, water and lemon juice to a pot and heat over medium heat for 20 minutes until it becomes rubbery. Pour the syrup over the cake while it’s still hot. Top with coconut flakes and ground almonds. 

Level of difficulty: Easy-mediumTime: 1 hourStatus: Parve

Translated by Hannah Hochner.