Madgooga "Madkooka" the Ancient Energy Bar of Iraq
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
Middle Eastern desserts from centuries ago did not require many ingredients to create a rich yet healthful treat. Some desserts did not even require an oven, like the sweet Iraqi snack called “Madgooga”, also known as “Madkooka”. Madgooga is basically an Arab style energy bar, comprised of natural yet decadent tasting ingredients like Medjool dates and smooth sesame paste. While health food companies today churn out date based energy bars by the thousands, madgooga was a precursor to this treat many centuries ago. The actual translation of madgooga (مدقوقة) is “pounded,” because Iraqis actually pounded the dates and sesame paste by hand to combine into a smooth paste. With each bite, you get the caramel-like flavor of tahini and dates, with a crunchy nutty coating of toasted sesame seeds.
Iraqis served madgooga in a variety of ways, either as a nutritious and energizing snack for their children, as a social dessert for house guests with a side of strong black coffee, or even as a dessert for mourners at funerals. What was great about madgooga was that it was available to people of all social classes, as the poor enjoyed this confection as much as the rich. Regardless of wealth, Iraqis inherently knew the health benefits of madgooga even long ago, as sesame seeds are rich in protein, calcium and vitamin D while dates are great sources of fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
This particular recipe is modernized with the use of a food processor so you can whip up your own madgooga in minutes. Make sure you include the step of toasting the sesame seeds, as that will ensure a nice outer crunch and extra nutty flavor. For another touch of modernized crunch you can add crisped rice cereal, or even chopped walnuts to suit your flavor preference.
To see the easy technique for creating this ancient treat click on the video below:
Recipe for Madgooda
1 ½ cup pitted Medjool dates (see note)
½ cup tahini paste
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cups crisped rice cereal (optional)
In a food processor, first, add the dates and puree until it forms a puree. Add the tahini paste and cinnamon and mix until well incorporated. Add the crisped rice cereal and pulse until combined. In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds until browned and fragrant (for just a couple of minutes). Next shape the date paste into balls or disks and roll into the sesame seeds. Store in the refrigerator.
The medjool dates I used for my recipe were from the Palestinian Farmer Box, which benefits farmers struggling in Palestine. To order or for more information, you can go to: https://equalexchange.coop/palestinian-products
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the YouTube cooking show called Feast in the Middle East, and soon to be cookbook author of the “Feast in the Middle East” cookbook. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond.
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