1. Combine semolina and sugar in a mixing bowl.
2. Melt butter in a pan and heat until bubbling. Pour into semolina and sugar and mix with wooden spoon until butter is evenly distributed.
3. Heat milk in pan until bubbles begin to rise, remove from heat and stir in soda. Pour into semolina mixture.
4. Mix with wooden spoon to a soft dough. When it cools a little, knead lightly by hand. Cover bowl with a sheet of plastic cling film to make an airtight seal. Leave for at least 5 hours or overnight.
5. Mix nut filling ingredients together.
6. Knead dough again to make it pliable. Take a tbspful of dough at a time and roll into balls the size of a large walnut.
7. Flatten a ball of dough in your palm and push up sides to make a pot shape. Fill hollow with a generous tsp of nut filling and mould dough over filling. Press edges to seal well and roll into a ball again.
8. Press into a decorated mould (a tabi) and tap out on board. Place on ungreased baking tray. Alternatively place ball of dough on tray, flatten slightly and press tines of fork obliquely around sides to give cakes a slightly conical shape. Press top with fork.
9. Have oven preheated to very hot, place Ma''amoul in oven and reduce heat to moderate. Bake at moderate for 20-25 minutes until lightly coloured. Remove and cool on trays for 10 minutes.
10.Sift some icing sugar onto a sheet of waxed paper. Place Ma''amoul on sugar and sift more sugar on top to coat thickly. When cool, store in an airtight container.
Note: Traditionally Ma''amoul are shaped using the same technique as when making Stuffed Kibbi Balls (page 250).
Tip : Makes 45