Traditional Moroccan yoghurt: Raib Beldi b’ Nyaq

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Raib beldi is a traditional dairy dessert made with freshly extracted cow’s milk and flavoured with orange blossom water.

Secret ingredient for a traditional Raib

The unusual added ingredient to turn this milk to a set yogurt consistency is the use of artichoke chokes, the artichoke’s fuzzy hair also known in French as barbe d’artichaut, foin d’artichaut, chardonette and nyaq in Moroccan Arabic.

The chockes from wild artichokes are the one we are after in this recipe. We collect them and dry them under the sun for a few hours then off to the freezer to keep them longer.

My mother has a blurry memory of her mother making little cookies of nyaq and keeping them for months when there was no freezer around but she can’t recall the details of this process.

The chokes used to be one of the staples in a Fassi house as Raib was part of breakfast, dinners or Ramadan sohour. We could literally dine on a bowl of raib, a slice of bread and some fruits or olives.

My grandmother and a few aunties still keep this tradition alive and that’s mainly due to the fact we can’t find a good fresh milk in a big city such as Casablanca.

To our shame the milk is usually mixed with water and this does not allow the raib to set. Which brings me to an important point: which milk to use for a good and well set Raib?

Well I’m glad you asked, we believe the best milk is the freshly extracted cow’s milk, full of fat and not homogenised yet. However, In UK, I found a nice brand which sells pasteurised un-homogenised milk and it works perfect. That is to say we are not looking for skimmed milk for this recipe.

 

The sugar is a matter of preference but for me, 1 to 2 levelled tablespoons are just fine for 1/2 l milk but feel free to adjust it to your preference. I never tried it very sweet be it in our family or elsewhere and I was always brought to believe that it should barely be sweetened.

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Ingredients

Serves 4 
Prep: 10 min - Leaving it to set: 4 hours minimum.
  • 1/2 l of cow’s milk (freshly extracted and unpasteurized is best) but a good non-homogenized milk will do as well
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of barbe d’artichaut or nyaq or chardonette or artichoke heart
  • 20 g of sugar or to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of orange blossom water
  • A small cheesecloth

 

Nyaq bottom right, the other pictures show the process of using it in the milk

Preparation

Mix the chokes/Nyaq with orange blossom water, cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Crush it using a pestle and mortar and transfer it to a small cheesecloth. I do take some milk and wash the mortar then pour the liquid on the cheesecloth. Prepare the bowls or glasses while doing that.

On low heat, barely warm the milk with the sugar stirred in. The temperature should be a bit like a milk to be given to a newborn. Quickly move it out of the heat.

Make a purse with the cheesecloth and dip it in the milk. Squeeze it as much as you can to extract  maceration juice. Stir.

Directly distribute the milk into bowls or glasses otherwise the milk quickly begins to curdle. Cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place (not far from the heater) or just over the counter for 1 hour.

Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.

Serving option

Always serve cold.

  • Serve topped with a fresh fruit puree or diced fruits just like, mahlabas style
  • Serve a small bowl of icing sugar next to it.
  • Serve with bread for a light dinner or Sohour (not my favourite though)

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Bouchnikha or chebbakia with milk, a Ramadan treat. It's sprinkled with sesame seeds

Moroccan spiced bouchnikha and Mouarraqah for Ramadan

Why is a wonderful Moroccan Ramadan sweet named after a plant used as toothpick? Well a picture is worth a thousand words. Isn’t it?

 

Photo of Bouchnicha which is used as a natural toothpick in Morocco

Bouchnicha is used as a natural toothpick. Credit @Nada Kiffa

 

You can still find Bouchnikha in the old Markets all over Moroccan cities.

Let’s get back to our Ramadan treat which is the purpose of this post which looks like a fanned out version of bouchnikha, hence its name.

 

Bouchnikha or chebbakia with milk, a Ramadan treat. It's sprinkled with sesame seeds

Bouchnikha or chebbakia with milk, a Ramadan treat. Credit @Nada Kiffa

To Abderrahim Bargach

I wanted to revive the memory of our nation beloved and accomplished journalist, comedian, TV presenter and fine gourmet Abderrahim Bargach who inspired many of us, including our national treasure Choumicha Chafai (famous for her many cooking shows).

Bargach was known to be a fine gourmet who was the first to present a proper cooking show, famous for his impeccable instant french translation after his guests texts in Moroccan Arabic. But most of all, he was famous because of his presence. style and charisma, comedies and sitcoms. I personally miss all of this.

Another use for your pasta machine

Bouchnikha is relatively easy to shape if you happen to have a spaghetti machine but you can also cut thin rubans/strips, bring them together by pinching the ends and turning them/rolling them around the centre.

No fancy gadget needed to make the latter which is rather called Mouarraqah according to Mr Bargach’s host, Mme Arsalane.

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Ingredients

Makes about 100 pieces
Prep: 45 min - Cooking: 20 min
 
  • 500g flour
  • 50 ml of orange blossom water (use what’s needed to have a smooth dough ball, add more water should you need moist)
  • 1 egg
  • 90 ml of vegetable oil
  • 2 tbps of white vinegar
  • 2 tbsps of soft butter (with a 1 tsp of smen for depth)
  • 1/2 tsp of baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp of instant dried yeast. diluted in 1 tbsp of warm water (optional especially if you want to keep it longer)
  • 1 tsp of ground aniseed
  • 4 tbsps of toasted and ground brown sesame seeds, (optional)
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ras el hanout (the one for sweet dishes)
  • A good pinch of saffron threads (dried over hot pan for 30 s and crushed)
  • A hint of yellow colouring (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of of salt

Finishing and decorating

  • About 1 kg of clear honey (mixing different varieties will give you a better taste)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of orange blossom water
  • 1/2 tsp of ground meska 
  • 1 liter of oil for frying 
  • Sesame seeds or fried skinned almond and crushed
 

Preparation

Mix all ingredients leaving the orange blossom water and water/milk until the end and adding just abput what’s needed to bring the dough together.

Break the dough into about 8 balls the size of a small orange then shape each one into a sort of a small hot dog roll. Pick one and cover the others with a cling film.

Roll by hand: roll each dough in length to no more than 1 mm thickness.

Roll using pasta machine: I start with number 7 all the way down to number 1. That’s how thin the dough should be.

To make the turban-looking sweets called Mouarraqah

You need to pinch 3 strips/rubans from the top then roll them around the center and then pinch the other end and fold it underneath the center. You could pinch both ends together by placing each finger from top and bottom center then applying some pressure. Set aside.

To make the delicate bouchnikhas

Pinch the spaghetti looking strings after each 4 to 5 cm and cut the 2 opposite sides to form one bouchnikha. You also need to push them towards the center so the string sort of open up and fan out.

Carry on with the rest of the dough.

Pour the honey and orange blossom water and crushed meska in a medium-size saucepan and warm them just about enough to liquefy the honey. Set aside.

Frying 

In a deep saucepan, heat the oil and fry batch by batch, they’re very delicate and you need space to turn them to the other side. They’ll take a couple of minutes to take a golden colour. Make sure the oil is not extremely hot to burn them either. I find that they take more time when I use an induction cooker so adjust the time accordingly.

Once a batch has fried to perfection, use one of those strainer ladles if you have, to get rid of excess oil then dip the fried bouchnikhas into the honey. Make sure they’re well soaked.

Carry on with the next batch to fry and repeat the same thing for each fried batch.

 


Leave those fried sweets in honey for at least 1 hour. Strain and sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds or crushed fried almonds.

 
Place in an airtight container and leave in a dark area for up to 3 weeks or 1 month in a fridge or 3 months in a freezer (thaw for 10 min before serving). 


Note on cooking on gas vs induction

Whenever I use induction or electric cooker, my fried Moroccan chebbakia or bouchnikha takes longer time to fry and hence sometimes loses in texture as it hardens a bit. I just leave it for another week before serving the first batch. 



A serving of stuffed Moroccan msemmen with onion and spices

Stuffed Msemmen with onions and tomatoes

Msemmen is a wonderful North African laminated pancake or bread. It can be enjoyed plain, served with honey or filled with different mixtures. Similar panfried bread can be found in Asia (i.e paratha in India)
We love Msemmen so much that we can have it any time of the day along with a glass of Moroccan tea or any hot drink.
You actually can’t say you know about Moroccan food if you don’t know about Msemmen.
A small hand reaching to a serving of Moroccan stuffed msemmens with onions and tomatoes

Stuffed Moroccan msemmens with spiced onions . Credit @Nada Kiffa

A recipe with a story

Today’s stuffed Msemmen recipe comes from a wonderful old family neighbour nicknamed “Tanjaouia“. Her bright smiling face and name always brings back so many sweet memories.
Thankfully, she’s still alive and it’s always a pleasure to see her whenever I’m back home as she comes to visit when she knows I’m around.
Tanjaouia must have been such a beautiful woman in her youth, her old wrinkled face can tell. It can also tell that she’s been through a lot in her life. I vaguely remember that she’s lost her husband when I was still little and she went on to raise 6 children, most of them succeeded in their lives and started their own families.
She also managed to keep her little villa neat and looking good all these 30 years after her husband passed away..
The weirdest thing is that I really don’t know her real name. Tanjaouia just refers to her city of origin “Tangiers”. However, everyone called her so since I was little. I do know that she had the best green oranges in her garden and the best backyard where a variety of herbs grow with care. She also had a fig tree, a grape “dahlia” and a few other fruit trees. Most of all, she always had home baked sweets on the table.
I paid her a visit a couple of years ago and it brought me 30 years back down the memory lane. The garden is almost the same. So is the kindness of this woman.

A bit of know-how

Tanjaouia’s stuffed Msemmen recipe is very simple as the filling does not need precooking or cooling time. It just needs some care when flattening the pancake so you don’t end up with many holes.
It’s actually not much of a recipe since I will only give you guidelines. Each msemmen is different in size and the filling depends on that really..
Onions and tomatoes msemmen recipe is not far from the stuffed ones we usually find sold across Moroccan cities for snack time (around 5 pm). Some omit the tomatoes and some add chopped long green peppers.
These stuffed Msemmens can be frozen and heated back in a hot oven or a hot frying pan.
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Ingredients

Makes 3 msemmens (about 20 * 20 cm squares)
Prep: 30 min – Cooking: about 5 min/Msemmen
Msemmen dough
  • 250 g of strong white bread flour
  • 150 g of fine semolina flour or durum flour
  • 1/4 tsp of dried instant yeast 
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 200-230 ml of water, lukewarm 
For the filling (adjust if needed)
  • 3 medium-size yellow or white onions, chopped or finely sliced (count 1/2 onion/msemmen)
  • 3 medium-size tomatoes, deseeded, chopped or finely sliced (count 1/2 tomato/ msemmen)
  • A cup of chopped parsley (about 2 to 3 tbsps/msemmen)
  • 3 tbsp of sweet paprika (count 1 tsp/ msemmen)
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin 
  • Chili powder or cayenne to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ingredients: chopped green or black olives, chopped green peppers

For shaping and laminating

  • 100 ml of vegetable oil
  • 100 g of fine semolina flour

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Preparation
Make the msemmen dough as shown here.
Once you get to the level where you flatten the dough thin, ready for shaping, spread the filling in the center and shape the square. In this recipe, you don’t need to use butter during the lamination process, unlike a plain msemmen. You will only need oil and fine semolina flour. You can use a mix of olive oil and vegetable oil.
Flatten another dough ball paper thin, scatter some filling and place one previously filled square in the center. Fold to form a bigger square. Set aside to rest and follow the same logic with the rest of the dough.
Fry the pancakes
Heat a non stick frying pan over medium-heat.
Go back to the first square you made as it would have had time to rest. Flatten it delicately and transfer it to a hot frying pan. Give it 2 minutes per side then start flipping over to make sure it’s all cooked through. The dough changes colour and the layers split.
Usually, when one filled msemmen is cooking, we flatten the next one and so on…
Serve warm with a good glass of tea or a mint infusion.
Note
If for some reason you are worried to pock them with many holes during the flattening process, shape them into small squares and bake them at 190 degrees C for about 20 minutes. The first day I made them, I chopped the onions and tomatoes fairly big, so I decided to bake the msemmens (which have become rghaifs). They turned out really good.
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Moroccan khlii tartlets

Lactose-free Moroccan khlii tartlets

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Those mini-tartlets with naturally caramelised onions and bits of khlii (which you can replace with smoky bacon) are really irresistible, especially if you serve them along with pickles.

I prefer to use this fuss-free dough as a base to make them but you can use a savoury shortcrust of puff pastry dough.

This recipe is freezer-friendly at any stage: either when you make the dough or shape it in its moulds, or fill it or even bake it all.

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Moroccan khlii tartlets

Moroccan khlii tartlets. Credit @Nada Kiffa

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Moroccan khlii tartlets

Moroccan bitesize khlii tartlets are easy to make. I would suggest you make you own dough unless you can'r do othewise. These tartlets are freezer-friendly at any stage of the making. Very handy for buffets and last minutes visitors.

Lactose-free dough

  • 300 gram flour
  • 90 ml boiling water
  • 10 ml white vinegar
  • 100 ml oil (50/50 olive oil/vegetable oil)
  • 5 gram baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • tarragon or thyme (optional)

For the filling

  • 2 onions (medium-size, finely sliced)
  • 100 gram khlii (or jerk meat, in small strips)
  • 100 gram cheese (grated, lactose-free or Edam, gruyère for a Non-lactose free version)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 3 sundried tomatoes (or confit of tomatoes or cherry tomatoes)

For garnishing

  • parsley leaves
  1. Start preparing the filling that needs cooking to allow time for it to cool.

Onion filling

  1. Allow the onions to sweat in olive oil for a minute. Season with salt and pepper.

  2. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Onions need to become tender and water must evaporate. This step should take about 20 minutes.

  3. Add the butter and herbs and stir. The onions should start turning from creamy to nicely golden.

  4. Set aside to cool. Fold in sun-dried tomatoes and bits of khlii.

The dough

  1. Mix all ingredients together except flour and baking powder which you need to add just afterwards. Combine to a dough.

  2. Roll over a floured surface as thin as you can (about 1 mm). Do not over-flour the surface so the dough keeps a good texture after it's baked.

  3. Cut shapes that will fit into your moulds, press the bottom to expel air and the edges firmly.

  4. Prick them as much as you can

  5. At this stage, you can either freeze the dough shells before or after you fill them or bake them and freeze them later on.

  6. I freeze the dough in the moulds for 15 minutes, by the time the oven is well preheated.

Assembly and baking

  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C. Place all the mini-moulds in a baking sheet. Blank bake the dough for about 12 – 15 min.

  2. Place the onions mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and khlii bits on top. Sprinkle some grated cheese.

  3. Bake for about 5-7 minutes.Serve at room temperature.