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Season 2 Episode 16 - Rotorua

This week on Neighbourhood, singer Elizabeth Marvelly, shows us around her hometown – Rotorua.

We’ll savour the exotic tastes of the Middle East, hear as young professional migrants find their voice, explore the art of an American man whose work melds expressionism with the influences of his adopted home and discover a treasured antique with cultural and sentimental significance to its South African owner.


Elizabeth Marvelly was born in Rotorua; she has Maori, British and Czech ancestry. Elizabeth has had a rapid rise to international stardom, sharing the stage in 2006 when she was just 16 with Sir Howard Morrison, touring Europe in 2009 with Britain's Got Talent opera phenomenon Paul Potts and performing to crowds numbering in the millions at prestigious venues including Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House. She has recently released her second album, Home.


In this week’s episode of Neighbourhood, Rotorua local, Nabih, cooks Maamoul – a delicious treat that reminds him of home.

Maamoul – date filled biscuits


900g coarse semolina

250g fine semolina

450g good quality butter at room temperature

125ml rosewater (maward)

30ml orange blossom water (mazaher)

1/2 cup milk

Date paste (or alternative fillings listed above)


Wooden biscuit Mold – available from Middle Eastern Shops


Using your hands, knead the coarse and fine semolinas together with the butter until combined.

Gradually add the rosewater, then the orange blossom water, kneading until well incorporated.

Knead until looks like bread dough. 

Wrap in plastic wrap, and rest 12 hours or overnight.

Next day knead the dough one more time, this time wetting your fingertips with the milk and kneading through to moisten the dough until all the milk has been added.

Preheat oven to 220C / 425 F.

Now, prepare a place to assemble the cookies. Create small teaspoon-sized balls of date paste, and an equal number of balls of dough.

Fold a tea towel in half, then half again (to absorb the impact of removing the cookie from the mold).

Hold the dough in your palm, and make a hole in the center, pressing the “sides” out to even thickness.

Place the date paste in the center and close the dough around it. Continue until all dough is used.

Press the maamoul into the cookie mold, enough to take shape of the cutout.

 Invert the mold and strike the tip against the tea towel to release the maamoul.

Continue until all cookies are formed, then place on a lined baking sheet, and bake 15-20 minutes until very light golden brown (too brown and they’ll dry out). 

Perfect served alongside a strong Arabic coffee.