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.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Moroccan spiced honeyed Ramadan sweet: Bouchnikha and Mouarraqah

I have previously posted a recipe for Bouchnikha only this time it comes with spices and you can relate it more to its cousin griouech or mkharqa or chebbakia (here and there).

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.

Back to todays recipe. It's relatively easy to shape bouchnikha 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.

As to why it is called like that, well it's because in Morocco, we grew up using this thing called Bouchnikha as a natural toothpick. I can't really translate it into English but here is the picture. You can still find it in the old Markets all over Moroccan cities.

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
For soaking 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


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.

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. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Moroccan skewered and grilled meat - Kabab

Brochettes of meat, kidney or liver are one of the classic options in Moroccan street food.

Brochettes (skewers in French) are the siblings of Turkish shish kebab, only the meat is marinated differently but more importantly cut smaller. However, for some reason, kebab in many countries refers to skewers of ground meat/kofte and I suffered a bit with this misinterpretation in many countries especially those with an Ottoman influence.

In Morocco, we don't go to fancy restaurants to eat Kabab or qotban/qodban (Arabic for skewers). We had to specialist fast food joints for this. The bigger the city, the longer the list becomes. Not only that. Each weekly market has its lot of grilling people and each main national road from a main city to another has coffee shops/food joints serving brochettes (and tagines) of all sorts. I have to say that fish or chicken brochettes would be limited to a few cities but that's not the topic of this post.

There is something about grilled kabab of any kind. Whenever I walk somewhere where there is a grilling activity happening, the scent of the roasted meat and burning fat draws me to it and I end up ordering even if I had no intention to do it. It's what they call the market of smoke.

Kabab usually comes with a seasoned fresh salad of tomatoes and onions, cucumber can be added. Depending where you order it, it may come with fries and green olives. Bread is part of the deal while a cold drink or a hot tea is an option unless you have asked for a menu. I know some fast food places started adding white sauce and cheese to this wonderful sandwich and I find it just wrong but If it's still around, that means some people like it.

In our houses, we grill kabab of all sorts over an oblong brazier (called kanoun or mejmar) of glowing coal, which means we have to wait for the high flames to calm down before putting the grill over them, which technically might take between 25 to 30 minutes.

Serves 4 - 6
Prep: 20 min - cooking: 10-20 min
  • 1 kg of boned leg of lamb or beef or any tender part, cut into cubes of no more that 1.5 cm 
  • 150 g of mutton or beef fat/suet from around the kidney, cut just like the meat
Dry marinade
  • 1 large yellow onion or 2 medium, grated medium or finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of flat leaves parsley, finely chopped
  • About 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
Serve with the following options
  • A mix of cumin, salt and ground cayenne pepper
  • A thinned harissa 
  • A Moroccan-style salsa.
Brochettes must be accompanied with
  • Moroccan bread or pita or baguette
  • Fresh salad
  • Chopped raw onions
  • Chopped parsley


It is important to trim the meat from most of its fat before cutting it into cubes of about 1.5 cm.

Cut the fat/suet about the same size. Fold in the chopped or grated onions and chopped parsley. Season and mix with your hands for a minute to make sure everything is well combined.

Cover with a clin film. Leave to marinate at least for 2 hrs and up to 8 hours.

Thread about 8 cubes of meat in each skewer and alternate with cubes of fat. Make sure you start and end with meat. Wooden ones will need pre-soaking before using them while the metallic ones don't need any special treatment. It's important you do not leave space between the cubes of meat and fat. Hold the skewer with one hand and squeeze the threaded cubes with the other all along as it helps spreading them along the skewers but also brings them together.

Cover and prepare the brasero/bbq as indicated above.

Grill each side for a few minutes and turn the kabab skewers to the other side. It should be well done and juicy from inside according to Moroccan standards.

Serve 3 hot brochettes by person


The same marinade can be used to make Moroccan chargrilled cutlets (lamb chops) or steaks.

Rumsteak, gigot, filet (French words) are the cuts needed to make Moroccan kabab del lham.

Kabab is always served hot. Slide the cubes of meat (discard the fat if you want) into 1/2 small bread or 1/2 baguette or pita, then sprinkle with cumin, salt, cayenne and press the sandwich between your fingers to release the juices in the hearth of the bread. The fresh salad can be added in the sandwich, harissa too.

Serve with a hot Moroccan tea. Otherwise, a green tea with a few mint leaves inside will do.


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