A plate of Moroccan griouech decorated with almonds and sesame seeds

Moroccan Griouech/Mkharqa with almonds paste

Griouech or M’kharka/Mkharqa is a fried Moroccan sweet which gets soaked in honey. It’s served throughout Ramadan along with the soup of the day which is Harira in most cases.

And since Harira is also served for breakfast after a long night wedding ceremony, this sweet is also served. They go hand in hand.

Moroccans themselves confuse chebbakia with griouech. It’s an accepted mistake. I’ve been there too.

Chebbakia is a descendant of zellabia or jalebi. It’s made of a runny dough which is then poured into hot oil using a funnel. We mostly buy it since only expert get its texture right (it’s also a men’s job).

Chebbakia is the one on top (with a funnel), Griouech or Mkharqa
is the one at the bottom (hand-shaped)

I have posted a recipe for Griouech or Mkharqa which is a keeper and it is usually the recipe I work around to make a standard version. But there was a version that only my senses could remember: a chewy fried and honeyned griouech with the taste of meska (mastic gum) coming through and soaked in a honey that seemed so deep in flavour you would always remember it.

In my last summer trip to Morocco, I found some griouech in my mother’s freezer. I tried one, then I went for another. Then I asked her where she did get that wonder from. One of my aunties did send it to her from Fez. It was exactly what I was after, that old memory of a good fragrant and chewy griouech came to punch me in the face, but this time, with a potential recipe in the end of the tunnel.

So here is my auntie’s recipe.

Since this dough has yeast in it, remember to shape the dough fast or get a second pair of hand to help out. The dough has to be rolled thin and should not stay long after shaping in a warm environment so it remains aesthetically nice after it is fried.

Ingredients

Makes 60 +
Prep: 45 min- Resting time: 4 hours minimum or overnight- Frying: 3-4 min /batch- Soaking: 1 – 2 hours

  • 500 g of all purpose flour (not strong bread bread flour)
  • 100 g of golden unhulled sesame seeds
  • 150 g of fine almond paste ( 120g blanched almonds ground to paste with 30 g of icing sugar)
  • 3 g of baking powder
  • 1 good pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 good pinch of saffron threads, mixed with 1 tbsp of warm water for at least 10 min
  • 1 tsp of ground aniseed
  • 3/4 tsp of mastic gum (ground with about 1 tsp of caster sugar)
  • 160 ml of fat mix (1/3 melted butter, 1/3 olive oil, 1/3 vegetable oil)
  • About 70 ml of orange blossom water (don’t add it in one go)
  • 5 g of instant dried yeast
  • 3 tbps of white vinegar (neutral taste)

For frying

  • 1.5 liter of vegetable oil (for a 22-25 cm pan)

For the honey

  • 1.5 kg of honey ( I mixed clear honey + mountain honey + acacia honey)
  • 1 tbsp of orange blossom water
  • A pinch of ground mastic gum (meska)

For decoration

  • Toasted sesame seeds or chopped blanched and fried almonds for decoration

 


Preparation

The dough

  • If you are buying unhulled sesame seeds “en vrac”, make sure you clean them from any stone or bad sesame seeds. You may need to wash them and dry them thoroughly.  The last step will be to toast them for about 5 min while stirring until it smells “sesame seeds”. Grind them very finely.
  • Mix all dried ingredients (finely ground sesame seeds, finely ground aniseed, cinnamon, salt, flour, crushed mastic gum). Pass them through a fine sieve to make sure the mix is smooth and not grainy. You may need to repeat this twice.
  • Add the almond paste, fat and the saffron water and work with your hands (or in a food processor) as if you are making a shortcrust dough: the idea is to make sure that every grain of flour absorbs the fat. So rub with fingers, give it some “fraisage”…Cover and set aside for at least 2 hours (better overnight).
  • Passed that time, mix in the baking powder (make sure there are no lumps), the yeast, the vinegar and the egg then the orange blossom water to bind the dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes to get a smooth texture. The dough should hard and not sticky. Actually, the dough should be harder than a regular bread dough as it will relax later on. This is one of the tricks to achieve a good texture which will last for days.
  • Divide the dough into 4 and cover tight. Set aside for 30 min.

Shaping griouech

  • Take 1 ball at a time while keeping the others covered.
  • Have a small bowl of flour on the side in case you need it to roll the dough.
  • Roll it maximum 1 mm thick. Make sure you lift to aerate beneath it before going further.
  • Use a cutting wheel to cut long strips of dough of 10 cm width.
The one on the left is a tradional Moroccan cutting wheel fit for
the job, but you could use another dented wheel
  • Follow the directions in the pictures to see where you should cut the smaller strips to form the flower and how to define the square or rectangle for each flower. Today I’ll give you the heart form and the traditional 5 strands griouech.
How to make a 5 strands griouech


5 strands griouech

  • Roll the dough thin then fold it in three on itself (picture 1). Roll it again (picture 2) maximun 2mm thin. Release the dough from the work surface.
  • Cut long dough strips of 10-11 cm large. Then pass the cutting wheel from top bottom to top, leaving about 8 mm between each strip as well as the edges (picture 3).
  • Lift one strand and drop the other, you will have 2 versus 3 (pictures 4 to 6).
  • Bring together the two corners of the rectangle located at the bottom. Pinch to stick them together (picture 7).
  • Use the other hand and try to delicately open the griouech from its middle (picture 8), push the pinched corners towards the top (picture 9). The previous bottom part will now be popping out of the middle of griouech.
  • Place the flower/griouech in a tray and pinch the 2 corners.
  • Cover all these creation with a cling film or another kitchen towel.

The honey

  • Mix all ingredients and warm it for about 5 to 7 min. slightly warm it, Set aside. It shouldn’t it be used cold while we dip the griouech in.

Frying and honeying griouech

  • These cookies are usually deep-fried (see introduction with note about baking). So you need a deep pot. For 1 liter of oil, I use a 22-25 cm large pot. You need to fry these cookies and bare in mind you need space to turn them. They also tend to expand a bit.
  • Once the oil is medium hot (not too hot), start dropping the flowers one by one. They usually land at the bottom but will float in the process. Fry from each side until nicely golden brown from both side. Each batch usually takes up to 3 minutes.
You know the oil is hot enough when you drop the uncooked griouech and it
makes these air bubbles which will disappear in a few seconds
  • Use a spider to fish the flowers carefully. Place them in the honey which shouldn’t be hot at this stage. Delicately push each one and make sure it’s fully soaked. Keep them in the honey for about 1 hour until they are completely cooled and they have soaked enough honey.

Decoration and storage

  • Once the griouech had time to get coated with honey, use a slotted spoon to fish them and place them in a strainer to get rid of excess honey.

You can:

  • store the cookies at room temperature but they’re at their best only within 2 to 3 weeks depending on the weather.
  • freeze them and thaw them about 20 min before you serve them.

    In both cases, griouech should be stored in an airtight containers with layers or plastic or cling-film between each layer of the honeyed cookies. This will keep them intact and easy to pick without breakage.

Well I hope you give them a try, they could daunting in the beginning but usually you get the hang of it after the first 3 or 4 mis-shaped flowers. They’re worth the effort.

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A serving of Moroccan brain starter cooked with tomatoes

Moroccan cow/calf or sheep brain’s with tomato sauce and chermoula

Sheep’s brain is of Moroccan dishes we cook during Eid Al Fitr (feast of sacrifice). But in Fez, It’s served as a cooked starter during family gatherings and usually the plates go back empty.

There are 2 ways to make this meal starter: It can be cooked with tomatoes or without. If you want to make a meal out of it, crack eggs at the end of the cooking process and scramble them in the sauce.

A serving of Moroccan brain starter cooked with tomatoes

Moroccan sheep brain cooked for Eid. Credit @Nada Kiffa

This cooked Moroccan starter is cooked “Mchermel” style. The vinegar (not lemon) adds an acidic note to the spiced tomato sauce which has a bit if chermoula mix in it. It balances the dish perfectly.

 


Ingredients
Serves 6
Prep: 15 min – cooking: 30 min

  • 4 sheep brains or 2 calf brains
  • 3 medium-size tomatoes, seeded and peeled then grated or finally chopped (optional)
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste (optional, for colour and acidity)
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp of coriander, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

 

Preparation

  • Wash the brains. Basically sheep’s brain hardly needs any peeling, You just discard any bloody bit while if you have bought calf’s brain, you will need to peel off all the veins and the bloody bits. Do it delicately using your fingers.
  • To ease up the process, you can dip the brain in boiling water with  a couple of tablespoons of vinegar for 30 seconds (no more) and pull it out.
Optionally, you can marinate the brain in vinegar, spices and herbs and cook it later
  • Cut the brain into chunks and mix them with the herbs, spices and vinegar. Set aside while the tomato sauce is in the making.
  • Over medium heat, mix the tomatoes with the garlic, stir and cook for about 3 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of water and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add the chunks of brain into the sauce, stir and make sure all sides have been in contact with the tomato mix. Cover and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat, the sauce should have thickened by them.
  • Stir in the olive oil just after you knock off the heat.

 

Moroccan cow or lamb brain can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled. We always serve it as a starter.

The sheep or calf brain in tomato sauce keeps up to 4 days in the fridge.



A plate full of Moroccan mlaouis

How to make Moroccan Mlaouis: recipe and tutorial

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Mlaouis pr Mlawis (Meloui for one) are done with the same dough used for Msemmens or Rghaifs. They’re just shaped differently with a few differences in the dough depending on the texture we’re after. 

Mlaouis look a bit like Indian parathas in shape. They also come plain or filled.

 

A plate full of Moroccan mlaouis

A plate full of Moroccan mlaouis . Credit @Nada Kiffa

For better results, we add a bit more yeast than a Msemmen dough or we turn a bread dough to Mlaoui. They’re called Mlaoui Mekhtamerine or Mkhamereen (Leavened Mlaouis). They’re irresistible.

Even the ratio fine semolina flour to plain white floor may vary from a family to another but good Mlaouis tend to use more fine semolina flour than Mlaouis.

A large Meloui made and sold in a Sunday market in Casa.
This dough has no yeast in it


Mlaouis are freezer-friendly. You just need to heat the batch in a hot oven or individually in a pan. They will find their texture back. Just avoid using a microwave all the way through (when I forget to thaw one, I put it in the microwave for a few seconds only and finish off in a hot pan).

It is important that you use fine semolina flour in the dough as well as during the lamination as it gives an authentic texture and help separating the layers while they puff.

Fine semolina flour, called la’hrech or finot in Morocco, is a bit yellowish with a slightly coarser texture as compared to the usual plain flour.

Left: fine semolina flour, Right: coarse semolina. Not the same.

There are a few ways of shaping Mlaouis. One of them is really so simple that anyone can get started with that . We’ll see two of them, the more traditional ones.

This is a basic recipe for the dough and how to shape it. We do serve them plain and filled (more recipes to come).

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Ingredients
Serves 8 – 10 
Prep: 30 min – Rest and proofing: 90 min- Cooking: 3 min/pancake

Main dough

  • 350 g of strong white bread flour
  • 150 g of fine semolina flour
  • 1/2 tsp of dried instant yeast (1 1/2 tsp for Mlaoui Mkhamrine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 260-290 ml of water, lukewarm

For shaping and laminating

  • 100 g of butter, at room temperature with a cream-like texture
  • 100 ml of vegetable oil
  • 200 g of fine semolina flour

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Preparation

Prepare the dough

In a small glass, mix the yeast with a few tbsps of barely warm water. Stir.

In a bowl, place the flours, salt and yeast (each in one side). Add the water to 3/4 and start mixing either by hand or by machine.

The dough need to be thoroughly kneaded to become smooth and soft without being sticky. It takes about 20 minutes by hands and 10 minutes with a KitchenAid.

The achieve the desired dough texture, gradually add the other 1/4 of water according to the absorption of the flours used.

You could leave the dough, covered, to rest for 15 min (in cold weather) or skip this step if the weather is too warm. For Mlaouis Mkhamrine, let the dough rise for 45-60 min at room temperature.

Shape Mlaouis easy method

Oil your hands as well as the dough. Depending how big or small you want the Mlaouis to be. Form slightly thick sausages and roll them. Their length will define the width of Mlaouis. At all times, you should keep the dough as well as the hands oiled.

Place each dough sausage on a generously oiled surface. We usually use a big tray where we place them all. Roll the dough balls in oil and cover with foil or a plastic. Set aside to rest for 10 min. Usually, by the time you’re done with the whole dough, you could go back to the first one you shaped and start shaping a Meloui.

Oil the worktop, try to flatten the dough and stretch it in length at the same time. In this method, your dough does not have to be thin to a see-through condition.

You could also start the Meloui shaping the same way we start Msemmen shaping by folding the outer two thirds of a see-through layer of dough on the middle third.

Smear with butter and sprinkle with fine semolina flour. Avoid tearing the dough.

Now, hold one end of dough with one hand and roll it from the other end with the other while stretching. Keep rolling tight while leaving the edges neat. It should look like this (see pictures below).

Steps to shape Mlaouis or mlawis

Steps to shape Mlaouis or mlawis . Credit @Nada Kiffa

Tuck the ends inside and set aside for 10 min.

Second method for shaping Mlaoui

Literally start the same way we do for Msemmen. Once the two thirds of the thin dough layer are folder on the middle one without getting to the square shape. Smear the dough with butter and sprinkle it with fine semolina flour in length. Fold the dough again (3rd picture top right).

Stretch the dough in length again. Again, a tiny bit of butter and a sprinkle of semolina flour.

Shaping Mlaouis second method. 2 rolls in the middle of Msemmen waiting to be flattened to  round-shaped Mlaouis

Like the previous method, hold one end of dough with one hand and roll it from the other end with the other while stretching. Keep rolling tight while leaving the edges neat. It should look like this (see pictures above).

Flatten Mlaoui rolls

Flatten the first roll you made to 2 mm thick round Meloui.

Set aside while you carry on with the rest of the dough rolls. This allows them to proof a bit (15-20 min).

Pan-fry each one on medium-heat for 3 mins or so.

Plain and khlii-filled Mlaouis being pan-fried.

Serve warm with a good glass of hot tea. Freeze extra Mlaouis once cooled.

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