Gluten-free Moroccan corn harcha

A gluten-free harcha-meet-ghrieba with Moroccan flavours, how about that for a treat? I thought you’d like it!

As much as most of our ghrieba recipes are on the chewy side and a few of them on the shortbread side ( of the baking textures, this one is rather a baked version of our national galette called harcha.

The recipe is easy to follow and I find it rather cool how we get to smash the dough balls against the baking tray before baking the lot.

Versions of baked harcha ghriebas can include mix of flour and fine semolina or/and coarse semolina and this will depend on families. Some regions do not even have any baked version at all so you may find Moroccans who have never heard of this, then you could introduce them. Take this opportunity to spread your knowledge and expertise in all-things Moroccan and introduce them to it.

 

My touch

Now corn harcha-ghrieba is usually good the first day it’s baked and we can give it another half day to appreciate it. It does not come wonderful after heating it so don’t go there.

However, I’ve come up with a way to make the pleasure last longer: I quickly soak it in a lemony basboussa-revani-like syrup but really quickly as it might breaks in crumbs, 100% corn products have this reputation of hardly keeping their shape if you try to fiddle with them. If you are known to be clumsy then take a tablespoon and poor the syrup on the ghriebas, I reckon 1 or two tablespoons for each ghrieba will do the trick. That way you will be safe. This soaked version keeps well for a few days in the fridge and can be served garnished or crumbled over freshly cut fruits.

I am giving all in grams so you can use the same weighting scale and one mixing bowl to make it.

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Ingredients

Makes +/- 12 ghriebas of 50 g each 
Prep: 10 min - Baking time: 20 min
  • 250 g corn flour (not corn starch)
  • 60 g of vegetable oil (originally 80 g)
  • 60 g of butter, melted (originally 80 g)
  • 40 g caster sugar (only half if not into too much sweetness, optional if using syrup)
  • 30 g orange blossom water
  • 150 g water at room temperature, might need another 30 g depending on the absorption
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp aniseed, slightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • A good pinch of salt

Finishing

  • 50 g of corn semolina or flour for rolling the dough balls (optional but It helps with the final look)

Syrup (you may double it if you want them really soaked)

  • 1/2 cup of water (1 measure)
  • 1 cup of caster sugar (2 measures sugar)
  • 1 tbsp of lemon or orange juice
  • 2 rinds of lemon

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Preparation

Preheat the oven at 180 C. Line a baking tray with baking paper or grease it and dust it with corn grits.

A a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients with the butter and the oil. Rub with your hands as if you are preparing a shortcrust dough.

Incorporate the orange blossom water then the water gradually and combine with a whisk or with your hands. The mix might look runny so don’t worry. Let it rest for 2 – 3 minutes. The corn flour will absorb the liquid and the batter-looking mix will turn to a malleable pasty texture.

Grab some of the dough and roll it between the palms of your hands. You need between 40 and 60 g for each ball depending how big you want the harcha ghrieba to be. I usually forget this step all the time but you need to roll the balls in corn flour (the part for the finished look) and smash it at about 40 cm height on the baking sheet. It helps with the cracking.

Arrange on the baking tray, leaving a bit of space between each unit.

Bake ghriebas for +/- 25 min  180 C. I usually rotate the tray after 15 min baking. They should look nicely golden. Set aside to cool.

Let cool, serve at room temperature, ideally the same day. You may like it with jam or honey.

To make syrup

In a small heavy saucepan, stir the sugar in water and add the rinds. Let simmer over medium heat for about 15 min. In the last 5 minutes, add the juice.

Set aside and use until it’s just warm to lukewarm (you can put your fingers in it without burning yourself).

Place the ghriebas over a grill and a deep plate at the bottom, poor the syrup on top and let them drip. Alternatively, you can poor one or two tablespoon over each ghrieba.

Keep the syrup-coated version in the fridge for a few days, serve with extra syrup as a dessert.

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3 types of Noisettes or Boule au chocolat found in Moroccan dairy shops or old-style bakeries

Noisette or boule au chocolat, the Mahlaba’s leftover cake

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Noisette or boule au chocolat is one of the names given to this cake ball which basically have no fixed recipe. It’s commonly found in old bakeries and Mahlabas  (dairy shops widely available in Moroccan cities and one of the most important part of the Moroccan street food world).

 

Recycling cakes

The recipe is all about using cake and cream leftovers which can be moistened with a vanilla sugar syrup then shaped just as big as a golf ball. It is then finished with a sprinkle of crushed peanuts or chocolate vermicelli.

Noisette chocolate cake balls can be anywhere from creamy soft to dense as far as texture is concerned. Even the same mahlaba or bakery may not reproduce the same outcome consistently. You can even use stale cake crumbs and bind them with a cheap chocolate buttercream or whipped cream. Add some crushed blanched and toasted almonds or peanuts for fanciness.

I used to buy a version from mahlaba with a thin layer of whipped cream between the cake mix and chocolate layer and I’d say this used to be my favourite.

For the sake of this post, I have bought 3 chocolate cake balls from different mahlabas which are literally lined up you would think it’s the same shop. Yet, the 3 cakes had nothing to do with each others. 

So if you are familiar with this chocolate cake ball many of us in Moroccan cities have tried at some point in their lives and you want to reproduce something similar, I suggest the following guidelines:

How to recycle old cakes

– Get a cheap vanilla flavouring option and make a simple sugar syrup. The syrup is mostly to keep the cake mix ball moist.
– Melt a cheap chocolate for coating, 
– If your usual version of cake ball has chocolate buttercream, it must be the cheapest drinking cocoa powder mix you should be picking for this recipe,
– For crunchiness; sprinkle toasted peanuts, not even blanched fried almonds (Moroccans will definitely understand me in this one),
– Use a spongy cake for optimal results but if you are used to a denser texture, you will be more likely better off with bundt cake or a buttery cake for the mix. 

The binding of crumbs and  finishing of this cake ball depends on the version you’ve been used to: whipped cream, melted dark chocolate, crunchy nuts, chocolate vermicelli..

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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..