R’ghaifs (Rghayef, Rghaif), Msemmens and Malouis fall under the category of flabread for some, galettes for the others and fried or baked pancakes for the third category.
Unlike in India, we do not serve them along with main meals and we do not scoop gravies with them. They’re eaten on their own or stuffed with something.
In today’s recipe, these R’ghaifs are fried and soaked in honey, they’re essentially served as a sweet treat, part of Eid Al Fitr’s breakfast/brunch (The feast marking the end of Ramadan for Muslims).
A blend of crunchiness and chewiness from the outside and softness from the inside, all wrapped with warm flavours, these Moroccan R’ghaifs with sesame seeds are fried and then left to soak in some mastic gum-flavoured honey for everyone’s pleasure. It’s a good start to each Feast.
Now these Eid’s R’ghaifs (Eid means Feast) are done differently throughout Morocco. While some make a simple Msemmen dough, shape it in squares, fry it and soak it in honey, some regions go beyond that and add more ingredients to the dough itself. Actually, adding saffron, gum arabic and sesame seeds paste to the dough is the secret to this recipe.
Some keep these R’ghaifs unstuffed but to add more goodness to the goodness, another version is all about fillinf each square with a fragrant homemade almond paste.In this case, they will be then called R’ghaifs bel louz (with almonds).
All Moroccans traditionally shape them in squares and even after frying and soaking, they will never go beyond 15 cm hight/width.
Meknes (next city after Fez) area happens to be the place where these festive R’ghaifs bellouz (with almonds) are famous and the tradition seems to run deep in that area.
You really have to try them out to feel all the dimensions of textures and flavours they have to offer. The good thing is that you can keep them in an airtight container for a few days. I still like them the first couple of days thought and to be honest, we’ve never been beyond that. They never last beyond that point.
Since my sister is married to a Meknassi man, she’s got her recipe from her in-laws decades ago, and then lost it. We adapted the recipe Rachida Amhaouche (a famous cookbook writer in Morocco) which delivers the results we were after.
Makes about 30
Prep: 30 min – Cooking: about 3-4 min per batch
- 300 g of white flour
- 200 g of fine semolina flour
- 50 g of unhulled sesame seeds, toasted and cooled
- 1 tsp of aniseed
- 1 small of mastic gum, well pound with a good pinch of caster sugar
- A good pinch of salt
- A good pinch of saffron threads
- 3 tbsps of orange blossom water
- 1 egg yolk
- 220-230 ml of water, lukewarm
For layering the dough
- 150 ml of vegetable oil
The filling (optional)
- 250g of almonds, blanched and peeled
- 50 g of fine sugar
- 1 pinch of mastic gum (pounded with a pinch of caster sugar)
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1 tbps of melted butter
Frying and finishing
- About 1 kg of clear honey
- A pinch of mastic gum (pounded with a pinch of caster sugar)
- About 2 l of neutral vegetable frying oil
- Sesame seeds for decoration
In a deep pan, cover the almonds with water and bring to a boil for 3 mins. Drain and peel off the skin. Wash, drain and pat-dry.
At this stage, you could:
1- Grind them to a paste with the other ingredients
2- Bake them at 180 for 20 min (toss them a couple of times) or fry the almonds (then drain) until golden then grind them with the rest of the ingredients.
Prepare the dough
Finely grind the sesame seeds and aniseeds to a fine powder, Sift all dry ingredients together.
Place the saffron threads in orange blossom water for 10 mins.
Mix all ingredients except water which you add gradually. Work the dough for 10 to 15 mins by hand and about 7-8 minutes using a KitchenAid or equivalent.
The dough should be well combined, smooth, not runny nor sticky. Cover tight with a plastic paper or cling-film. Set aside for 15 min to 30 min.
|The dough is yellow-ish. That’s due to the saffron but sometimes
with add a bit of turmeric too
Have the vegetable oil handy in a bowl next to you. You will need it to grease your hands, the dough balls and the surface.
Form little balls of 3-4 cm diameter. Should your hands, the surface or the dough becomes dry, slightly grease them.
Generously oil a big tray or plate and place the dough balls slightly far from each others. Cover and set aside for another 15 min. Basically, if you have made a lot, you could cover the dough balls from any contact with air and start layering the first set of balls you shaped.
OIl your hands again as well as the work surface which should be smooth and clean from any spots (crumbs, bits etc..)
|We prepared all these rghaifs, covered them and placed to tray in the fridge for
a few hours (optional if you don’t want to fry them instantly)
Flatten each ball as thin as possible and in a big rectangle. You should see the work surface through. Make sure you get on with this step delicately without creating holes in the dough.
Shape into mini squares of dough and set aside for another 10 min. Make sure the dough is always oiled from all sides and covered with plastic or cling film. (See Notes on how to shape Msemmens in general or check my post about Msemmens).
Should you wish to fill the inside with the almond paste, place it in the middle and then carry in with the folding.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan and then fry both sides of rghaif until they’re nicely golden.
Drain any excess of oil by shaking them then delicately soak a few minutes in slightly warmed honey (mixed with the ground mastic gum). Toss them a couple of time and make sure they’re fully dipped in the honey
Drain the R’ghaifs from any excess honey, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Serve at room temperature.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container for a couple of days.
Notes on how to shape a Msemmen square in general
In this shaping step, you should always remember these rules:
- The thinner and even the first rectangle of dough is the better.
- Always remember the rule of thirds (see below).
- After you shape a square of folded layers, you need to leave the dough to rest for at least 10 min. It helps getting on with the next flattening step.
1- Once the dough ball is flattened to a rectangle of thin and transparent layer, sprinkle some drops of oil and visually divide this rectangle into 3 thirds from top to bottom and from right to left. All will surrounding thirds will have to be brought back to the third located in the centre. That’s pretty much the logic of shaping a Msemmen square.
2- Bring the top third to the middle and fold it equally on it by stretching any edge. Bring the bottom third on top of the two and make sure it’s covering the first 2 thirds.
|This is a Msemmen filled with vegetables. I have folded the first top third
and bottom third on the middle third. The edges can be stretched with fingers
to form a perfect tall rectangle where all layers are covering each others neatly
3- Sprinkle a few drops of oil again and bring the third bit of dough from the right into the middle then the left third to the middle to close the square.
|Bring the right third then left third on top of the middle third.|
5- Set aside for a few minutes, slightly oiled from the surface and covered with cling film.
|The square of dough which should be left to rest for a few minutes.|
6- Flatten each formed square again so the layers become even thinner. Make sure you never create holes in the square of dough while giving it extra centimetres.
7- The Msemmen pr R’ghaif squares are ready to be oil-fried, baked or pan-fried.