Saturday, 8 October 2016

Moroccan peanut shortbread from the North

I finally got hold of the best recipe for these melt-in-the-mouth shortbreads from Northern Morocco where there is an abundance of peanuts growing around Larache and its surrounding.

Compared to other recipes of the same biscuit/cookie, the one I'm about to share with you involves roasting the flour before using it and it does make a difference.

Now you may related them to polvorons and rightly so, as they have the same texture only more friable and they're also wrapped in special paper. Note that polvorons are an Andalucian treat gone worldwide with the extension of Spanish culture to other countries and also that Andalucia has been a Muslim area for 800 years..Not to mention the Spanish colonisation of Northern and Sahara area of Morocco for decades. My point is that these cookies have a lot to say and showcase under their wrapping to be treated like just another sweet. It's past wrapped up in a silky paper that ones takes in a mouthful.

As much as they're easy to make, it's important to choose peanuts with a strong flavour such as the small ones, to handle them with care once baked and to really restrain from moving them until they're completely cool.

These special shortbreads do not contain eggs, so although they do have the shape of a Moroccan macaroon namely called ghrieba, they are still part of the biscuit/cookie category.

Expect a friable and melting texture once these peanut shortbread are in your mouth, not snappy or crunchy as a regular shortbread would usually be. It's pure indulgence!

Makes about 20
Prep: 25 min (incl. roasting peanuts), baking: about 15 min
Recipe adapted from here

  • 200g of blanched peanuts, unsalted
  • 150 g flour 
  • 80 g butter, melted
  • 30 -40 g of peanut oil (minimum)
  • 120 g icing sugar
  • 3 g of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 good pinch of gum arabic/meska, crushed (optional)

Finishing and wrapping
  • Icing sugar
  • Special wrapping paper for polvoron


In a moderate oven (180 degrees C),  roast the flour for about 30- 40 min or until it changes to golden hazelnut colour. You need to stir it at least 3 times throughout the process. Set aside to cool and sift.

Roast the peanuts for 10 min at the same temperature. Set aside to cool then transfer them to a kitchen towel and rub them to remove as much of their skin as you could.

Transfer the peanuts into a food processor. Add the sugar, crushed meska, salt and cinnamon and blizz to a fine powder (not crunchy bits). Fold the mix into the flour and baking powder. You could sift all these dry ingredients together to homogenize.

Melt the butter (clarify it if you can) and mix it with 30 g of oil. Set aside to cool.

Pour over the dried ingredients and mix to combine. The dough should be moist and compact appearance. If it is too dry to bring together, add a tablespoon of oil or 2.

Preheat oven to 180/160 C degrees (conv/fan). Shape into 3cm balls. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them about 5 cm. Slightly pat to level it but do not flatten it. I aim for anywhere between 1 to 1.5 cm thickness.

Bake between 15-20 min until it's golden brown.

Cool completely before dusting with a slight coating of icing sugar. You could also roll it in. Wrap with a special paper and keep in an airtight container for a couple of weeks (clarifying the butter helps in keeping them for a longer time).

How about trying the other version with raw almonds ? It certainly has a different texture but it's equally delightful. It also does not need wrapping as long as you generously coat it with icing sugar.

German Amerikaners or American black and white cookies

I got so addicted to these cakey cookies when I lived in Germany that I had to buy them from the bakery every other day. So every time I miss my time there, these are one of the recipes I bake.

I understood that Amerikaners were brought by Americans (hence the name) at the end of WWII. They're known as black and white cookies in their original country.

Amerikaners are so easy to bake, which is a bonus. However, they're best consumed within 48 hrs at max. They're are their very best the same day you bake them.

Giant Amerikaners I used to buy in Germany

Makes about 15 medium Amerikaners
Prep: 10 min. Baking: 15 min

For the cookie 
  • 100g butter at room temperature 
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla sugar or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of lemon zest (optional)
  • 2 eggs, standard size
  • 4 tbspsmilk
  • 200 g of flour
  • 50 g cornflour
  • 2 tsps of baking powder
For the white icing

  • 40g icing sugar
  • About 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (icing should have a thick consistency)

For the black icing

  • 40g icing sugar, sifted
  • About 3 leveled tablespoons of 100% cocoa powder, sifted
  • About 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (icing should have a thick consistency)


In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla sugar until creamy. I do add lemon zest but it's optional.

Add the eggs one at a time then the milk while whisking.

In another bowl mix the flour, cornstarch and baking powder, add the powder mixture to the liquid batter, whisk until you have a nice smooth and homogeneous paste. The texture is somewhere like Victoria sponge or bundt cake batter.

Preheat oven to 180 ° C and line up a large baking sheet with baking paper.

Either scoop some of the mix with an icing scoop and place on the baking sheet or use two spoons to do the job. Leave some space between each one as they slightly spread.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until just nicely golden from the edges and just about from the center.

You should expect the dough to slightly spread in the beginning then inflate from the center as it reaches the end of baking time.

Set aside on the bumpy side to cool.


Prepare each icing separately by gradually adding the lemon juice to the dry ingredients while stirring to a thick consistency. Cover them both until you need them.

Smear the white icing on half of the flat side and try to keep the edges neat. Do the same for the black icing.

You can also have an all white iced cookie or an all black version. Also, you may make patterns as shown here on Dr. Oetker's site.


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Moroccan slow-cooked meat with cumin -L'ham mkoumen

L'ham mkoumen is one of the simplest and tastiest recipes I've recently discovered and it comes straight from the Marrakech culinary repertoire.

Mkoumen means "with cumin" and l'ham refers to meat which as to be falling off the bone with hardly any sauce. It's so simple but it surely is incredibly addictive. My family loved it.

It's somewhere between Tangia (iconic bachlor's dish from Taroundant, Marrakech but also other cities) and M'quila (a fast option to replace khlii). Add a whole preserved lemon in wedges and you have a version of tangia.

I cooked my L'ham mkoumen in a dutch oven. I started it over a cooker for 15 min and placed it for 2 hours in the oven. It was so delicious!

Because the dish is all about meat, it's a standard in Morocco to serve such things with salads on the side to make up for a complete meal.

Lham mkoumen is served almost as a confit of meat, dry with hardly any sauce, hence the little amount of water added to it. It should be slow-cooked in a closed tagine or in a heavy pot that can go to the oven.

In the pictures below, you will see some preserved lemon on top of the meat. That's because I couldn't resist adding half preserved lemon with the pulp, it really tasted like tangia! Succulent!

Serves 4 
Prep: 10 min - cooking: 2 hours

  • 1 Kg of meat on the bone (osso bucco cuts will be perfect or leg of lamb in chuncks)
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of salt (smen being already salted)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground coriander seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of smen (Moroccan clarified and preserved butter)
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • 200 ml of water

A bit of meat, a bit of garlic, a bit of rice with that tiny bit of thick
reduced sauce. Heaven!


Rub the meat with ground cumin, ground coriander and smen. Leave for an 1 hour and preferably overnight.

In a dutch oven or a heavy clay pot, add the other ingredients. Start the cooking on medium heat  over a cooker for 10 minutes. Transfer to the oven for about 2 hours at 200 degrees C for 10 min then bring it down to 170 degrees C for the rest of the cooking. At 90 min, check the tenderness of the meat and the amount of liquid left in the pot.

Serve with steamed rice or hot bread and a salad on the side.


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