Moroccan giant fennel salad recipe: Shlada del boubal

Do you know this vegetable/herb? have you seen it before? In Morocco, we call it boubal (Fr: Grande férule, férule commune, faux fenouil). In English, it’s called “giant fennel” or “African ammoniacum“. It’s giant since it’s plant grows for about 3 m long.

Having tried it, I just can’t get my head around the “fennel family” thing. It tastes nothing like it. It’s like a a giant hippie asparagus and it tastes more like it.

Then I’ve read online that despite the name, it’s really not from the fennel family. Pheww..Well that should comfort me.

I took theses pictures about 3 years ago when I was in Fez where this salad is still prepared during a very short season.

The method of preparation is very much to the merfouss of fresh young broad/fava beans: steaming the vegetable, preparing a chermoula with generous addition of olive oil and sauteing the mix.

If you get hold of this weird herb/vegetable and make this boubal salad, make sure you serve it well chilled. Eat it warm or hot and you’re in for a serious stomach discomfort.

Serves 4
Prep: 10 min – Cooking: 30 min

  • 1 bunch of giant fennel (boubal, see picture above)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne
  • 30 ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsps of lemon juice

Optional additions

  • 2 tbsps of coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of parsley, chopped

For garnishing

  • 1/2 preserved lemon, cut into small wedges
  • 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil



Separate the florets from the stem, Wash them in cold water.

Cut each into big bits. Place them on the top of a couscoussier or a steamer but make sure the stems go in first followed by the florets. Cover and steam for about 20 minutes or until they’re tender.

In a frying pan, mix all the other ingredients except the lemon juice and sauté for a few seconds, Add the boubal and break it with a spatula into the spice/herb mix. Stir for a few minutes until all liquid has evaporated. Correct the seasoning.

Set aside to cool. Mix in the lemon juice and drizzle some good olive oil.

Serve chilled, never warm or hot!

The boubal salad keeps well in the fridge for 3 days.



Mussels and shrimps cooked in tomato sauce and served over couscous

Moroccan mussels in a tomato sauce : Bouzroug be maticha


Mussles in tomato sauce is a dish which can be served as a main dish or as a cooked salad.

I decided to serve it rather warm-ish over couscous for a change. I served it as a light meal, somewhere between a starter and a main dish too.

In today’s post, I’ll describe how to make a proper Mussels tagine or starter. I’ll also add the rest of the ingredients to serve it in a more modern way.

The best couscous to use for this is a corn couscous or a fine semolina couscous. I personally steam my couscous but I understand some may want to shortcut and use the 5 minutes formula (mix with salt and water and wait 5 min until in plumps up). In this particular recipe, whichever way you follow does not really matter.


Mussels in tomato sauce given a modern treatment

Serves 4 to 6
Prep: 20 min – cooking: 15 min

Mussels in tomato sauce

  • 2 kg of mussels, raw and shell scrubbed and cleaned
  • 800 g of tomatoes, seeded and grated (or good quality chopped tomatoes from a tin)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup of parsley and coriander, chopped
  • 50 ml of olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp of dried cayenne powder or a chopped fresh one
  • Salt to taste

For the prawns

  • 800 g prawns, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 5 tbsps of olive oil
For the couscous (double ingredients if you want more couscous)
  • 1 cup of dried  couscous (follow package directions to prepare it)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of mixed peppercorns (black, white, red, green), crushed
  • 2 tbsps of butter
  • 1 tbps of parsley, chopped
For the garnish
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice
  • Extra parsley leaves
  • Lemon wedges
Again, you could enjoy the mussels in tomato sauce on their own or make this elaborate dish for a complete meal.
Prepare the mussels in tomato sauce

Wash and clean the mussels. Drain. Put them in a deep pot and cover. Place over low heat.

Once they’re open (discard the closed ones), turn of the heat. Set aside to cool, pick each mussel and discard the “beard”. Keep the water released by the mussels.

At the same time, sauté tomatoes in half of the oil with spices and herbs for 15 minutes in a frying pan. Add a bit of water if needed.

Transfer the shelled mussels with their water to the tomato sauce. Cook on medium heat until most of the water has evaporated. Correct the seasoning.

Serve hot for a main dish or cold/warm as a starter.

Prepare the couscous
Follow package direction to prepare the couscous. Delicately mix with the rest of the ingredients.
Sautee the prawns

While the couscous in taking shape, sautee prawns for a couple of minutes and season to taste.

Serve the dish

Use a pastry circle to shape the couscous base. Surround it with prawns. Spoon mussels in the sauce on top of the couscous.

Spread the chopped and seasoned fresh tomatoes around the prawns.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges.


Common fish and seafood in Morocco


Having lived in different countries, I always found it difficult to find some types of fish I grew up eating. Fishing industry is one of the main sources of money for the country.

For any Moroccan, fresh fish is the deal. We don’t buy frozen, we like to see the head of most of the fish we buy to define its freshness and we usually discard anything not caught the same day.
We have plenty of calamari, whiting, sardines, sea bass, eel, sole, skate while tuna gets snatched by the Japanese in high sea.

Common fish in Moroccan markets

Some of the very common fish you find at the fishmongers stalls and which are heavily used for different recipes:
  • Bar or loup bar (Moroccans call it “le loup” or “Darii”) and can measure anywhere from 20 to 70 cm, is also a favourite for fish tagines or stuffing. It’s seems it’s a type of bass when it’s translated to English.
  • La lotte (Eng: monkfish) is another perfect fish for tagine and a favourite.
  • Congre (farkh or sennour in Moroccan) is conger in English, perfect for tagines again
  • Ombrine (Eng: umbrine) is used for stuffing as well as pageot (Eng: red sea bream)
  • Merlan (Mirna, mirla in Moroccan) or whiting in English, a -Moroccan favourite for fishballs or for frying.
  • Shark and espadon are commonly used from grilled fish kebabs.
  • Soles are just as good for cooking “en papillote” or frying.


Fishmonger in a local market

References in Moroccan fish

This webpage offers an idea of the commonly caught fish in Morocco. This is an example of the common fish in Morocco (from the Southern region only).
We have multiple ways of cooking fish: frying, grilling, stewing or baking.
Fresh oyster with lemon juice (freshly opened for me as we tend to snack on it on the go)

Common ways to cook fish and seafood in Morocco

While the small fried or grilled fish is usually served as starter, a cooked tagine and baked tray of fish can have whole big fish with the head, filleted fish or fish balls.
During family gatherings, we like to buy a big fish, stuff it and bake it or we cut it into big pieces and make tagine.
Fresh shrimp, small sardines, soles, squids, whiting…etc, commonly found in Moroccan markets
Most of the fish tagines or baked tray have one of the chermoulas as main seasoning, but in some areas, a sweet element is introduced while chermoula is not used. Safi is a city which is famous with it’s fish stuffed with interesting praline paste while Rabat and Fes use a specific type of fish which they cook with sultanas. Now some sultanas are acidic and others are sweet. So you want to find the right one for the job.
Basic fish recipes especially for grilling or cooking in “papillote” might just need cumin or salt and that’s about it. The fish is so fresh that you just want to keep the taste of the sea intact.
Many small ports in Morocco have small joints who are only there to serve you a tomato and onion salad and offer to grill the fish you would have bought from the fishermen who just got out of the sea with loads of freshly caught fish. That’s how fresh it can get!
Some of the upcoming posts will be all about fish. So locate a place where you can get fresh fish and let’s get cooking.
But for now, I leave you with a list of some previously posted recipes of fish and seafood with different cooking options:

Moroccan mhammer with its onion topping daghmira

Braised and roasted of beef/lamb with a confit of onions – اللحم المحمر التقليدي

Recette en Français plus en bas

Braised and roasted of beef/lamb with a confit of onions

Is that going to become your new Sunday roast dinner or lunch?

Braised and roasted of beef/lamb with a confit of onions consists of a slow-cooked meat to tenderness and finished off in the over for a layer of crispiness, offering a contrast all the way through.

If you are a meat lover, this should be a version of heaven for you as it is. However, my favorite part of the dish is the confit of onions that comes with it and I tend to make loads and indulge.

To know more about this recipe, please visit this link to find all the text about it.

Let’s make the recipe!



  • 1.5 kg lamb or beef shoulder with bones, cut into 5 large pieces (can also use leg or rack of lamb)
  • 500 g of yellow onions, finely sliced or chopped

For the Spice Rub

  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 1 tsp smen, Moroccan aged butter (or ghee)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper

For Braising

  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 85 to 236 ml water
  • 2 to 3 tbsp oil, mixed olive and vegetable oil

For Garnish

  • 100 g almonds blanched and fried or green/purple olives

How it’s done

Watch my video here;

Viande braisée au confit d’oignon
وصفة اللحم المحمر الفاسي مدغمر و منسم بالسمن و الزعفران


Les ingrédients

  • 1.5 kg de viande de bœuf ou agneau
  • 500 g  d’oignons

Épices et aromatiques

  • 4 gousses d’ail,
  • 1 cc de smen
  • 1 1/2 cs paprika
  • 1 cc sel
  • 1 cc gingembre
  • 1/2 tsp poivre noir
  • Saffron
  • 3 cs huile neutre
  • Un peu d’eau


  • Olives ou amandes frites


Pour visualiser la méthode de préparation, suivez le lien ou cliquez sur la video: