Saiss Jben is the secret to these Moroccan cheese rolls or as we call them Sbiaats in reference to fingers. Saiss is a fertile geographical area in the Northern part famous for many things, including its goat cheese.
To make these Moroccan cheese rolls, you don’t have to go to Fez or Northern Morocco to get the cheese. You can use anything between ricotta to a crumbled feta to a goat cheese buche (without the rind). You can also use cream cheese Philadelphia or Kirri. You can mix different type of fresh cheeses provided that you strain the watery ones.
Where to find Jben Saiss
You will find this Jben anywhere from Fez to the North. Jben can be prepared using cow’s milk but the one I’m all about today is prepared with goat cheese.
Jben Saiss comes in different textures, from soft to hard. It also comes with different saltiness.
Fresh or aged cheese
Some like it slightly aged and some like it as fresh as it gets. So when I’m in front of it, I just pick a bit of everything.
While some of the cheeses might have rennet in them, you can come buy a vegetarian version of Jben Saiss using herbs and fig extract to bring it to that texture.
We happen to have our trusted cheese man located in the old part of the city and his cheese has no rennet. When I’m in Fez, I buy a decent amount and freeze it for future use, especially for these goat cheese rolls.
Now these cheese rolls can be on the savoury side, using mint or parsley or just plain. But they can also be served slightly sweet by adding a hint of sugar and orange blossom to the cheese mix then drizzling them with honey once fried.
Moroccan goat cheese rolls- Sbiats jben
- 250 gram cottage cheese (ricotta, crumbled cheese, jben..)
- 8 sheets warka (or good phyllo do)
- 1 egg yolk (Optional, in case the cheese is not crumbly)
- salt (to taste)
- pepper (optional)
- mint leaves (chopped, optional if not using honey to coat the cheese rolls)
- oil (for frying or)
- 100 gram better (melted, to rub the rolls if you choose to bake them)
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp flour (+/-)
In a large bowl, mix the egg with a fork, crumble the cheese in and add the rest of the ingredients. You can make this step ahead and leave it in the fridge for a few hours.
Shaping the rolls (or triangles)
If you are using large sheets or ouarka or phyllo, think about cutting them in half (at least) to shape the triangles or in large strips to make the rolls. Place the ouarka sheet on your work surface shiny side down.
If you are going to fry it, you don't need to brush with butter. If rolls or triangles are going to the oven, then brushing the ouarka sheets with butter is important.
Put a little filling in the bottom of the sheet, a few centimetres from the edge, fold the sides of the sheet over the filling lengthwise making sure the sides are neat and even at all time. (see how to shape a roll).
Fold the strip on itself as you go. Make sure the cheese is trapped inside the wrapping as you don't want it to overflows during frying or baking.
You could seal the last bit of the roll by smearing a bit of flour paste. Place the rolls in the fridge, covered with a cling film until you are ready to fry or bake them.
Frying vs baking the cheese rolls
To fry the rolls, make sure the oil is just about warm in the beginning. Flip the rolls or triangles a couple of times making sure it's nicely golden from both sides.
To bake the rolls, preheat the oven at 180 degrees C. Grease a baking sheet with a tiny bit of oil. Place the rolls in and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, making sure to flip them halfway.
Serve at room temperature within the hour.
You can grate cold cuts, shop some olives and add to the cheese mix. You could use ouarka or a shortcrust dough to make mini-turnovers..Egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes at 180 degree C.