A small slice of date cake dotted with chopped dates and candied clementines

Moorish Moroccan shortbread: Ghrieba Msseoussa

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Unlike many Moroccan ghriebas (sort of macaroons) which come on the chewy and soft side of the baked good, today’s traditional ghrieba from the North of Morocco is more on the shortbread-like category with an indulging melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Butter, oil along with nuts gives a delicate texture to ghrieba.

Some definitions

Before going further with the recipe, I must explain the meaning of “msseouess”. It’s actually the state of something damaged by worms and therefore reaching a weak crumbly state.  Do not let this rather unappealing description put you off. This remains  one of the best shortbread recipes you may come across.

Moroccan ghrieba msseoussa or ghriebat el khalit (khalit in Arabic refers to mixture) is a rich mix of leftover nuts. Its other name is halwat laqita (bastard sweet) due to the use of leftover nuts hanging around with no major “rule”. However, to make it easy on you, I’ve put equivalent weight to all the nut components.

Ghrieba msseoussa is a  nutty shortbread with Moroccan flavours perfect for Eid and other festive days

It’s worth mentioning that apart from raisins and sesame seeds, the rest of the nuts listed in the ingredients are interchangeable and replaceable. Again, the idea behind this recipe is to use leftover nuts from Achoura/Ashura (a Muslim version of Christmas in Morocco).

Having said that, nothing stops you from making it anytime you fancy a treat.

Handling ghrieba

I find these ghriebas very delicate as they break while still warm. So I urge you to handle them with care.

You may need to wait until they cool completely although the icing sugar may not stick very well in this instance.

I tend to wait for 10 minutes after they are out of the oven and give them a good layer of icing sugar, sifted above them while they are still in the baking tray. When they’re cool I move them to the icing sugar plate so they also get covered from the bottom.

Just find a way to have them all covered, whichever way you go.

Storing ghrieba msseoussa

Although they are usually kept for a few weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, I found that keeping them in the fridge is not a bad idea and they even freeze and last longer. This also help with their texture as they hold a bit before melting in the mouth.

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Moroccan shortbread with nuts: Ghrieba msseouessa

Ghrieba msseoussa, a nutty shortbread with Moroccan flavours perfect for Eid and other festive days such as Christmas,

Apart from raisins and sesame seeds, the rest of the nuts listed in the ingredients are interchangeable and replaceable as the idea behind this recipe is to use leftover nuts from Achoura/Ashura or, as we are approaching christmas, the loads of nuts left after this occasion. However, nothing stops you from making it even before and gift it to your beloved ones. We all love a treat made with love.

  • 75 gram almonds (fried or oven-roasted and cooled)
  • 75 gram raisins or sultanas (rinsed with hot water)
  • 75 gram sesame seeds (unhulled )
  • 75 gram walnuts kernels (ideally oven-roasted for a few minutes and cooled)
  • 75 ml vegetable oil
  • 125 gram butter (soft at room temperature)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 gram baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 300 gram flour (sifted)

For decoration

  • 300 gram icing sugar

Make-ahead

  1. Toast the sesame seeds and set aside.

  2. Mix raisins with orange blossom water and set aside for 30 min, covered.

  3. Blend or chop them to a rough texture. Set aside.

  4. Crush the fried or oven-baked almonds to a rough texture, not too fine but not big either. You could use peanuts instead

  5. Do the same for the rest of the nuts.

Make the ghrieba mix

  1. Mix butter with sugar to a creamy texture. You could use a whisk or your hands

  2. Add the rest of the ingredients leaving the flour last.

  3. Do not overwork the dough, you just need to bring it together and combine it homogeneously.

Shaping and baking ghrieba msseoussa

  1. Preheat the oven at 170 C. Line baking sheets with baking paper.

  2. Shape ghriebas: roll small dough balls and flatten them no less than 1.5 cm thick. Ghrieba should be between 5 to 7 cm in diameter.

  3. Line ghriebas slightly far from each other.

  4. Use a cookie press and slightly press on top. If you do not have it, use the forks or those pastry tweezers to pinch the top of each ghrieba. Use the end of a manual whisk to get that rose-shape.

  5. Place the baking tray in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 to 18 min until slightly golden.

  6. Let cool.

  7. Meanwhile, fill a deep plate with half of the icing sugar, delicately place a few ghriebas and sift some icing sugar on top. Do the same for the rest of the batch.

Almonds and walnuts can be replaced with oven-roasted and skinned (or not) peanuts, crushed.


Slow-cooked beef tongue Moroccan style

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Moroccans have 2 majors ways of cooking the tongue: steam and serve with salt and cumin or cook it “mchermel-style”. The latter dish is bolder and there are days where I can’t just have it any other way.

 

Slow-cooked Moroccan beef tongue. – Credit @Nada Kiffa

Can I convince you to give this recipe a go? You could be fighting off with your brain which command you to feel squeamish about tongue or any offal for that matter.

If you like pulled meat, tender and falling off the bone, then Moroccan slow-cooked tongue fits the bill.

 

Ways of cooking Moroccan beef tongue recipe

Moroccan beef tongue recipe required slow-cooking in a dutch oven (2 hours), a well sealed Tangia-style clay urn (up to 4 hours) or a pressure cooker (1 hour).

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Moroccan slow-cooked beef tongue

  • 1 kg tongue (beef's tongue, trimmed)
  • 2 tbsp coriander (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves (grated or crushed )
  • 1 onion (Spanish or brown, small, chopped)
  • 1 tomato (grated and only pulp kept)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (or slightly more)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika (paprika paste will do)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp harissa (to taste, optional)

For finishing and garnishing

  • green olives
  • ¼ preserved lemon (only the skin/rind)
  • 1 ½ tsp white vinegar
  1. Watch the video for all steps to cook Moroccan beef tongue with chermoula

Moroccan slow-cooked beef tongue keeps well in the freezer. 

You could also substitute the tongue for oxtail or the neck. They require less cooking time and are equally flavoursome.

 



A couple of big stuffed spleens in Rcif- Fez- Morocco

Moroccan stuffed spleen recipes

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Stuffed lamb, beef or camel spleen is a big thing in Morocco. It’s a bit of a bumper that I can’t find it halal in the UK for some health and safety restrictions but it’s one of the things I’d like to have every now and then.

Now if you are familiar with Moroccan street food you may have seen little pockets over charcoal, grilling alongside brochettes d’agneau (lamb skewers) or kefta. Think of it as a massive fat boudin/sausage.

 

A couple of big stuffed spleens in Rcif- Fez- Morocco

A couple of big stuffed spleens in Rcif/Fez- Morocco. Credit @Nada Kiffa

Stuffed spleen part of Moroccan street food

The thing is that the version of grilled spleen found in the street food joints, no matter how appealing it smells and looks, it’s usually stuffed with a chermoula mix and fat/suet. The homemade versions are more compact and rich in ingredients.

It’s crazy how much a spleen can take in in term of stuffing. It’s a bit like a sock, the more you fill the more goes in. You will know when it’s seriously overstuffed and about to burst, which is something to avoid.

Stuffed spleen is either chargrilled, or cooked in a saucepan or oven-baked (best option when you have the big ones to handle).

It’s also freezer-friendly and really packs a punch especially if one is suffering from iron deficiency.

My other recipe on tasteofmaroc.com

Christine Benlafquih is an incredible expert in Moroccan food. She’s a reference in the field and I highly suggest you visit her page for more authentic Moroccan recipes of all sorts. She’s also a friend of mine and she has documented a stuffed spleen in the making. My mother has shared one of her old recipes and Christine has captured some nice photos with her camera. Please have a look at the details on how to handle a large spleen which you can adjust to different sizes.

This post is only to suggest some of the stuffing combinations you may encounter in Morocco, depending on the families, the regions..The quantities of ingredients vary depending on the size of the spleen but also on one’s preferences. It’s not a precise recipe.

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1/ Stuffed spleen with rice (the version posted by Christine here)

A version of Moroccan stuffed spleen with rice and offal

A version of Moroccan stuffed spleen with rice and offal. Credit @Nada Kiffa

 

 

  • 1 veal or beef spleen, trimmed of fat
  • 500 g (1 lb. 3 oz.) finely ground beef or lamb (or a mix of the two)
  • 250 g (8 oz.) suet (chehma), finely chopped
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pitted olives
  • 1 or 2 preserved lemons (flesh only, seeded and chopped)
  • 1 medium onion, grated
  • 1 head of garlic, pressed
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (or red pepper paste or harissa)
  • 1 generous tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 generous tablespoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste

 

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2/ Stuffed lamb spleens with suet and chermoula (small spleen pockets)


 

  • lamb spleen
  • onion, finely chopped
  • Chermoula (green version, add chili/cayenne to your liking). This recipe calls for a good dose of it.
  • Diced  fat/suet.
  • Chopped green olives (optional)

This option of stuffed spleen is ideally char grilled. Oven-baked is the second option. It takes less time due to the size.
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3/ Stuffed spleen with heart, liver and kidney

A version of Moroccan stuffed spleen with rice, offal and eggs

A version of Moroccan stuffed spleen with rice, offal and eggs. Credit @Nada Kiffa

  • Heart of a lamb or calf, diced and sauteed for a couple of minutes
  • Liver of lamb or calf, peeled and membrane discarded, diced in small pieces
  • A kidney or two for a dept of flavour, peeled and membrane discarded, diced.
  • Green olives, chopped
  • Preserved lemon, chopped
  • Fine Chinese rice vermicelli or rice, precooked al dente. This ingredient should represent less than the 1/5 of the whole filling.
  • Chermoula

You can also use a blender to have a compact fine paste and fill the spleen with it.
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4/ Stuffed spleen with Moroccan spiced kefta, calf’s liver and rice

 

  • A portion of liver of lamb or calf, peeled and membrane discarded, diced in small pieces
  • Moroccan spiced kefta (minced beef or lamb or mixed with salt, pepper, paprika, coriander, parsley, garlic, cumin). 
  • Precooked rice al dente. This ingredient should represent less than the 1/3 of the whole filling.
  • Green olives, chopped
  • Chermoula
So if you are feeling brave to have a go at any of those fillings, make sure you follow the details on how to cook this wonderful offal to perfection from Christine’s recipe description.
Should you have cooked spleen leftovers, you could fry them with an egg and make my dad’s quick dinner..