Monday, 20 April 2015

Baked Msemmens or plain butter Rghaifs

These butter Rghaif or baked msemens are a treat for breakfast or afternoon tea time. They can be served plain along with jam or honey, or  sprinkled with sugar. They offer contrasting textures of soft layers in the inside and a crunchy outer layer.

I remember my eldest sister making a massive butter Rghifa by putting about 4 Msemmens inside each others. The result is a family-size baked treat which is also much easier to shape than individual ones.

You can sprinkle blanched, roasted and crushed almonds inside along with sugar and cinnamon for en even more indulging treat. It will look like a "Millefeuille". 

For today, I'm just posting the plain butter version which remains my favourite.

Butter rghaifs can have all these layers which can be even finer (see pic below)


Serves 8
Prep: 20 min - Resting: 30 min - Baking: 25-30 min

  • 350 g of strong white flour
  • 150 g of extra fine semolina or semolina flour
  • 1/4 tsp of dried instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 270 ml (+/-) of water, barely lukewarm
For laminating
  • 80 g of butter, soft to a creamy texture or melted and cooled
  • 80 ml of oil
  • 60 g of extra fine semolina or semolina flour
 For eggwash
  • 1 egg yolk or just melted butter

Mix all ingredients and gradually add water to knead the dough.

Passed 10 minutes of kneading time by machine or 20 minutes by hands, you should get a soft  and elastic dough which is should not be sticky. Cover the dough for 15 min.

Oil your hands and divide dough into several balls double the ferrero chocolate balls.
Hopefully you get a pair number as we will pair each squares we will be making. 

Generously oil a tray when you can place all these dough balls. Oil them from each side and cover for another 10 min. See more about this method in the Msemmen post.

Follow the same guideline to make a coupled Msemmen or Rghaif but do not flatten in the last bit.

Place each coupled Msemmen on an oiled baking sheet. Leave at least 15 cm between each. Flatten slightly with your fingers. 

Brush the top of each coupled Msemmen with butter.

Preaheat the oven to 180 degrees C. bake until golden from top and bottom of each Rghifa.

Serve warm or at room temperature within a few hours of baking Rghaifs. The ideal drink to go with these laminated pancakes is a good Moroccan mint tea.

Fine layers of dough trapped in a crispy crust.


The standard baked butter rghaifs are basically made with a square of laminated dough into another.
The bigger they become the more squares you can put inside then flatten the whole square.

Example: for a 26 cm square or round pan, you could have 3 or 4 msemmens laminated into each others, you will have multiple layers. There is butter between each two layers to enrich the dough and add good taste.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Moroccan baghrir 100% semolina

Baghrir is a North African pancake with countless holes. It's also found in the Middle East and a few other places.

We usually serve baghrir with a warm mix of honey and butter, either for breakfast, for afternoon tea. It's also part of the first meal to break the fast during Ramadan and sometimes the last meal before dawn.

You could stuff baghrir with nuts to make nice filling pockets (just like it's done in the Levant) which get fried or baked then soaked in honey.

I recently filled it with a savoury mix, baked it and served it with a salad for a light meal. I liked the crispy outside and the soft inside this version has given.

I have posted a few posts about the usual recipes for a standard baghrir but I forgot an old one which uses 100% semolina. I know that some people prefer omitting white flour in the mix, so this is the recipe they're usually routing for. The texture is wonderful and it's usual yellow-ish than any other version.

A big pile of large semolina baghrir, ready for a morning brunch with the family
I used a glass to measure but I have the precise measurements on the side.

Makes about 20 baghrirs (medium size)
Prep: 3 min- Cooking: less than 2 min/ baghrir (a big pancake griddle goes faster than individual frying pans)

  • 300 g (2 measures) of coarse semolina (not couscous)
  • 150 g (1 measure) of fine semolina flour
  • 640 ml (4 measures) of water, lukewarm
  • 10 g of instant dried yeast
  • 14 g of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of salt
Top: Fine semolina flour. Bottom: coarse semolina


Mix all the ingredients in your blender starting with water then the dry ingredients. Whiz up for 1 minute.

Pour the mixture into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 min to 2 hours until you see the batter full of bubbles.

Stir gently with a ladle.

Baghrir almost ready

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly oil it with the tip of a kitchen tower/paper.

Use a smal ladle to pour the batter into the pan: make sure you start from the middle and then tilt the pan so the batter goes around to cover all the flat surface. Alternatively, you can QUICKLY use the back of the ladle to spread the batter but do it ONLY once and at the very beginning. 

The holes start to form and that’s usually a sign of a successful baghir: a porous and light pancake (Thing of the honey that will go through all these pores). If you see the bottom of the pancake browning fast, take the pan off the heat which you might need to reduce.

Allow a few seconds of cooking until all the bubbles are showing. Cook baghrir for about 2 minutes from one side. In case you see an uncooked spot, just flip it over for a second (literally). and take it off the heat.
Baghrir cooling before piling them (important)
Place each Baghrira on a clean kitchen cloth making sure not to overlap then when still hot. If you have a small work surface, you may only overlap the edges but not the centers.

Serve warm and drenched with a warm honey and butter mixture. 

Consider serving baghrir with a nice scoop of vanilla ice-cream to a nice dessert..Yummy!

Honey-butter sauce (equal amounts)

On a low heat, melt the butter, add honey and give it about 30 seconds to melt and blend.  Add a few drops of orange blossom water for a Fassi version.

Either you pour this sauce over each baghrir or, as we generally do, drench each top of baghrir by soaking it directly into the pool of sauce then reversing it and placing it in a serving dish. When they're piled, each baghrira feeds the other with the sauce and excess sauce will be usually collected by the last one.

Presenting baghrir

Take one baghrira with your fingers, dip the top (with holes) into the orange sauce and pick it up instantly (or it will soak too much sauce and might fall apart). Place the baghrir in a big plate, slightly overlapping each other.

  • To freeze baghrir, I wait until they're cool. I use wax paper between each pancakes and stack them in a plastic bag then off to the freezer.
  • To cut on the resting time, double the quantity of baking powder.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Moroccan tea: the types, the herbs..all about it

Moroccan tea or Attay differs from an area to another. While Moroccan mint tea is the most famous drink to represent Morocco nowadays, it's worth knowing that Moroccan tea is more complex than that.

We have 3 types of Moroccan tea verisons: Attay Sahraoui. Attay be na'na', Attay be tekhlita.

Attay "Sahraoui": The people of Sahara and desertic areas don't use mint. They actually prefer it without. Their method of making tea and filtering it before serving a glass to the guest is far more complex than the usual mint tea we know. It's a show worth watching.

Attay "Sahraoui" has a serious reputation accross Morocco. It's just the strongest and it seems to be good for headaches.

Attay be tekhlita (mix): Going towards Marrakech, El Jadida and all in between, tea lovers like to flavour their mint tea with an array of other mints and herbs, depending on the mood, the seasonality or the occasion. The mix of herbs is called "tekhlita", which literally translate to mix.

Other wild herbs can be added but it really depends on the regions.

Specific stalls in the market selling the Moroccan mint tea herbs. We bring it home and make our own tekhlita
The common dried tea leaves used for Moroccan tea are sold in a pack and referred to as Gunpowder green tea.

The standard dried green tea used for Moroccan tea
Herbs are not only added to flavour the tea but to help with specific nervous or digestive concerns. Thyme or lemon verbena are one of the herbs used for targeted purposes.

Tea served in a tall glass (public stall in a market) with extra sugar and extra mint leaves

Attay be na'na' (with mint): Some other regions or rather families don't even go there. They just pick a few types of mint or just one, mix them and add them to the pot.

Making Moroccan tea also differs from one family to another. While some insist on having the foam on top of their beverage, some don't bother and all they want is a mild glass of tea. This definitely impacts how it will be done after all ingredients are in the pot: Do you "chahhar" or not? Which means do you let it simmer for a few minutes over low heat or you just let it infuse without the heat to serve it afterward? That's the question!

It goes without saying that sugar is an adjustable ingredient to taste. Most of the caterers nowadays serve 2 teas: one with sugar and one without. No one will be surprised if you ask for less sugar or no sugar. However, foreign writers and publishers about Moroccan tea enjoy skipping this change in the habits because they would have tried only a few...But yes, you can always ask that sugar comes on the side or none of it should be around your tea!

I was invited to present a Moroccan tea ceremony to the Dolphin Square's Moroccan Spa and here is the description of the lovely PR lady who took the pain to write all my description on how to make Moroccan mint tea.

I'd rather say that the last glass posted there was the one showing a tea without a "signature" foam on crowning the tea..

Tea with a crown served in a weekly market along with grills.

Along with the usual type of mint used for Moroccan mint tea, we tend to use one or more of these herbs but with parsimony; we add one or two leaves of sage, a stalk of wormwood or verbena, or robert geranium (my favourite, also used during the distillation of orange blossom water).

Waiting for that tea to infuse
In Fez, the city where orange blossom is a big deal, we serve flavoured Moroccan tea with blossoms picked from the cedrat/bigaradier tree (bitter orange) or from any lemon or orange tree in the house. You could also buy the blossoms in the market when in season.

All these herbs can be dried and frozen. We use them throughout the year in case they're not available fresh due to the seasonality.

Herbs used for tea but also in some regional couscous and other recipes

Fliou: Fr = la menthe pouliot, menthe sauvage. Eng = pennyroyal. It brings a peppermint/spearmint layer to the mint and it suddenly becomes so refreshing eventhough it's a warm drink. Pennyroyal is also used to cook dishes such as potato "hzina" or special soups for winter. We also drink a milk infusion of pennyroyal when we catch cold.

Na'Na'/Liqama: Fr = la menthe. Eng = mint. Note that there are many types of mints in Morocco and mixing them makes the best Attay. We usually look for 5 types of mint

Timijja/Timarsat: Fr = menthe ronde ou aquatique. Eng =Applemint, Bowle's Mint. It has an interesting taste and we also use it to make a specific type of harcha or couscous.

 Salmiya: Fr= la sauge officinale. Eng = sage

Left: sage is in the middle of the display. Right: sage in the pot (front)

Merdeddouch: Fr = la marjolaine. Eng = marjoram

Louiza: Fr= ka verveine citronelle. Eng= lemon verbena. So relaxing.

L'aatarcha : Fr: géranium Robert/pélargonium. Eng: Robert Geranium. It brings a flowery and refreshing flavour to the mix.

 Chiba: Fr= absinthe. Eng: absinth/wormwood. It's best to serve it in a glass on the side so whoever wants it adds it to their own glass. Not everyone is found of it. I just found it sold at one of the North African shops in London. I think it's not easy to come by though.

 Azir: Fr= romarin. Eng= rosemary.

Rosemary, between sage and mint
Z'itra: Fr =Thym commun et thym citroné. Eng =Thyme. There are a few varieties of thyme. It's worth mentioning that in Morocco, many people tend to use the word Za'atar or sahtar for thyme (not the Levantine mix) which is oregano.

Lahba1: Fr= basilic. Eng =basil. There are two types in Morocco: the common Italian basil but the best for Moroccan tea is a home grown variety called "lahbaq el beldi" which has rougher stalks and leaves. (No pic)

So how do you like yours?


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