Q & A with Nargisse Benkkabou, creator of My Moroccan Food
I’ve visited Morocco many times on sourcing trips and on holiday and really love the cuisine; the mix of spices in the tagines, the hot and cold salads, mouthwatering appetizers and of course, the sweet, sticky pastries.
I have been looking for a good source of Moroccan recipes since my last trip and came across a wonderful blog, My Moroccan Food, full of inspiring recipes accompanied by beautiful photographs, so today I am talking to Nargisse Benkkabou, a Moroccan food writer, photographer, cook and creator of My Moroccan Food, http://mymoroccanfood.com.
What motivated you to start blogging about Moroccan food?
I decided to start my blog straight after my cookery training last year. I had an urge to share my love of food and I chose to focus on Moroccan food because I realized that a lot of my friends love the food but rarely cook it at home. My aim is to make Moroccan cuisine more accessible.
What are the key ingredients of Moroccan cuisine?
- Spices: saffron, turmeric, ginger, sweet paprika, cinnamon, ground coriander
- Olive oil
- Preserved lemons
- Fresh coriander
The main dishes are tagines, stews of spiced meat and vegetables, prepared by slow cooking in a shallow earthenware dish with a conical lid. Moroccan cuisine is also famous for its couscous.
What is your favourite dish?
There are many different types of tagines in Morocco but my favourite is chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons.
Tell us about your Moroccan cookery classes?
I am very excited about my classes, which will be launching in London soon. I am planning to teach classic recipes such as pastille, a type of meat pie, typically filled with spiced pigeon meat and apricots and having a sugared crust and my favourite chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives, to individuals or small classes of up to three people.
You have a delicious looking recipe for Almond and Honey Briouates, which you have kindly allowed us to share. What are the main ingredients for these bite-sized sticky sweet delicacies that you find everywhere in Morocco.
- Almonds, cinnamon, sesame seeds, anise and orange blossom water
Almond And Honey Briouates – Dairy Free (Coconut Oil)
Briouates are small stuffed pastries that are filled with savoury or sweet fillings such as meat, cheese or almond paste.
Almond briouates are very popular in Morocco, they are mainly made of almonds and honey and gently seasoned with orange blossom water and cinnamon.
The pastry we use the envelope them in Morocco is warka, unfortunately there is no warka in London. The best substitute to warka is filo pastry, which I also used to make bastila.
Traditionally the almond paste (the filling) is made of ground fried almonds and then the whole pastry is fried. Yes, double frying. Sounds a bit like too much frying, right?
Today, I chose to make the briouates the way my mom does them (cause she always knows best!) this means that I didn’t fry any of the ingredients to make the briouates. I simply roasted the almonds in the oven and also baked the briouates in the oven.
The result tastes amazing, I found that the baked briouates feel lighter than the fried ones I tried in the past.
If you love honey and almonds you have to try this recipe! The pastry is crunchy and covered with honey, the inside has a deep and strong almondy flavour and a sweet orange blossom water aroma.
Also, in my quest to make Moroccan recipes more accessible I used coconut oil instead of butter to brush the filo pastry and to make almond paste, I think it tastes better than with butter. Ha!
Makes 25 small briouates
300 gr blanched almonds
80 gr caster sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons orange blossom water, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
20 gr odourless coconut oil, solid
20 gr odourless coconut oil, melted
200 gr filo pastry
300 gr honey
Ground nuts or chopped dried fruits for decoration
• Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).
• In a greased baking tray, place the blanched almonds and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake in the oven until lightly tan, about 20 min (middle shelve). Give the almonds a good stir halfway through cooking.
• In a nut grinder or a food processor transfer the roasted almonds and add the caster sugar, 2 tablespoons orange blossom water, cinnamon and salt. Process until all the almonds are ground.
• Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)
• Transfer the almond mixture in a bowl and add 20 gr solid coconut oil. Mix until the ingredients are combined all together and knead to a solid mass.
• Unroll the filo and cut the pastry lengthways into 6 cm large and 30 cm long rectangles. Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry and keep the filo rectangles covered with a damp towel until ready to use to prevent them from drying out.
• On a work surface place a filo rectangle, brush it with coconut oil. Top the corner of the rectangle with a spoonful of almond paste and fold to form a triangle, up to the right and left, until the brioua is formed.
• Repeat until you’ve exhausted the almond paste and the filo pastry.
• Brush the small briouates with coconut oil and place in the oven to cook for 10 to 12 min until lightly golden.
• Meanwhile heat the honey with 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water. Avoid burning by controlling the heat, (once the the honey is foamy you should reduce the heat).
• Once the briouates are baked and golden, immediately transfer them to the simmering honey and soak the pastries for 2 to 3 minutes (flip the briouates if necessary).
• Remove to a flat dish to dry and cool before serving. Decorate with ground nuts and/or chopped dried fruits.
• If you use butter instead of coconut oil, use the same quantities and replace the solid coconut oil by softended butter and use melted butter instead of the melted coconut oil
• You should be able to close the pastry with the coconut oil (or butter) brushed on the filo pastry, however if you struggle to do so, use an egg yolk.
• Variation: Blanched almonds and honey briouates. The filling in this variation will taste more like marzipan, Do not roast the almonds and follow the recipe as instructed.
For more delicious recipes and to find out about Moroccan cookery classes follow Nargisse’s blog: https://mymoroccanfood.com.