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Barbara is a porridge-like dessert that’s made by Syrian and Middle Eastern Christians every year on December 4th to mark the countdown to Christmas and in celebration of Saint Barbara. The story of this day goes back to when Saint Barbara disguised herself in different characters in order to escape the Romans who were persecuting her. She used to hide in wheat fields and witnessed a miracle as the wheat instantly grew to hide her steps. That is why we eat this wheat-based dessert on Saint Barbara’s Day.

The Syrian tradition is that each family makes this recipe and each will share a plate with the other neighborhood families. The fun part is that they would compare whose Barbara is the best of the year.

Wheat is the main ingredient for this recipe as wheat is considered a symbol for life. One seed of wheat if planted can grow and produce more seeds.

The other ingredients are  licorice spices, anise, and fennel powder. Fennel and anise have a licorice sweet taste, therefore, the dish itself doesn’t require a lot of sugar, and for those who like it sweeter extra sugar can be added, spices also can be adjusted depending on your taste, you can start by less and add-on.




2 cups wheat berries

2 liters water 8 cups

1 liter water 4 cups, this is in addition to the water above

1 cup sugar you may substitute partially with honey

1 cup raisins

2 tablespoon ground anise seeds

2 tablespoon ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

2/3 cup chopped whole almonds with skin

1/2 cup pine nuts



1- Clean the wheat berries by removing any stones or debris. Measure 2 cups of cleaned berries then wash very well with water. Put in a colander to drain.

2- Place the wheat berries and the 2 liters of water in a pot with all the spices and boil for 1 hour, mixing every 15 minutes so that the berries don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Turn off the fire and set aside to cool for 5-6 hours. You will notice that the berries will absorb much of the water.

3- Chop the walnuts and the almonds.

4- Add the remaining water, sugar, raisins, spices and nuts, Bring to boil then simmer for 20-30 minutes. If the porridge thickens a lot you may add some additional water.

Garnish with nuts or pomegranate seeds.


Lara Khouli