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.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Fekkas d' Lihoud : Fat-free thin Moroccan Jewish biscuits

A while ago, I spotted some moulds of different shapes in Essaouira and when asked, the shop keeper said it was for Fekkas d'lihoud. Now fekkas is a form of Moroccan biscotti and lihoud refers to Jews. Being in Essaouira, I thought it was the place to look for more information about Sephardic cooking. I got busy and forgot about it.

These thin biscuits  as well as their famous baking pans have become a thing in Casablanca for last 5 years and come with different nuts and seed mix in bakeries. It can also be made to order by the many women who cater from home. My brother brought us some a few years ago and recently my sister brought me an adapted version with chocolate and coffee! the latter was to die for!

So in my last trip, I decided to get hold of some of this iconic baking pans which can also be used to make brioches and thin cake loaves of different shapes: stars, triangles, flowers, rectangular..

In Morocco, these moulds cost next to nothing, unlike the birkmann brand that seem quite expensive considering that you need at least 3 of these even when you halve the recipe..But it's out there, available via Amazon. Having lived in Germany and bought things from this brand, I know how good it is!

It's also worth to get those thin bread pans because you can make all sorts of breads and bakes and cut them later on for canapes etc..

I understood the logic of the recipe then completely changed the additions: I made a less sweeter and also savoury one with anchovies. I substituted white sugar with coconut sugar in the recipe below. I added cranberries and dried strawberries.

The dough needs to be sticky and just slightly runny so do not go and add more flour. It has to flow in the moulds while it's baking and take their shape.

In this version, I added a variety of dried fruits and seeds. It came
out seriously fruity 

What I'm posting today is a completely adapted version. As I mention in the list of ingredients, feel free to replace the seeds, nuts and dried fruits but make sure things go in harmony with each other and most of all make sure you stick to a minimum of sticky and sweet dried fruits as it might become excessively sweet.

Ready for a second bake..
Regarding the nuts, seeds and fruit mix, you can use a pre-mixed pack but just weight the total of each group to get closer to the one I'm giving down below.

Serves 30-40 people
Prep: 30 min - resting: min 8 hrs - baking: 30 to 35 min (in two times)

Basic ingredients for the dough 

  • 6 eggs. medium to large
  • 400 g of all purpose flour ( I mixed 1/3 whole wheat and 2/3 white flour)
  • 200 g of sugar (I use half light brown and half white caster sugar, initial recipes call for 300g caster sugar!)
  • 7 g baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt

Nuts, seeds and dried fruits (open to options and substitutes)
  • 150 g of almonds with skin on or slivered (whole almonds will need pre-soaking for a few minutes then pat-dried and roughly chopped)
  • 150g whole hazelnuts, 
  • 150g whole cashew nuts, 
  • 100g pistachio
  • 100g of dried apricots, raisins, goji berries or anything you have around (unsweetened) 
  • 4 tbsps of mixed seeds (or just unhulled sesame seeds)
  • 2-3 tbsps of unsweetened dessicated coconut 


  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest or 
  • 2 tbps of chopped candied orange or clementine peels 
  • or 1 tsp of vanilla extract



Preheat your oven at 160 degrees C. Grease the pans/tins/moulds with oil and dust them with flour. Discard excess flour.

Beat eggs with sugar and salt until foamy. Put the egg beater or whisk on the side and get a spatula.

Fold in the flavouring, dry fruits, seeds and nuts. Mix.

Sift the flour with baking powder and fold it in. Mix with the spatula or with your hands (I do).

Butter and flour the molds and pour the mixture to 2/3rds of it. They will rise.

Bake until golden and springy (about 20 min in my oven).

Remove from pan and cover tightly with a couple of kitchen towels. Once cool, place in the refrigerator between 8 and 24 hours (overnight will do).

Get a sharp knife and cut the fekkas 1 mm thin (I go to 2 mm and it's still good but it should be 1 mm really!). This fekkas does not break if do things delicately and with concentration (and a good knife).

Cover a baking sheet with baking paper because the dried fruits might stick to it. Place the fekkas next to each other without leaving space as they won't expand.

Bake for 10-15 min at 160 degrees. I prefer to bake them for 12 min and leave them in the hot oven (position OFF). Ideally they should not go very golden, they barely change colour and it will look to you as if it's still soft but once cooled it will harden.

Once cooled, transfer fekkas to an airtight container and leave them in a dry place. It keeps for weeks.

Serve with hot or cold drinks.


A savoury version which worked well as crackers and a base for canapes
  • The ones I made were either with a mix of whole wheat and white flour or white brown and coconut sugar, which is why they look slightly golden to brown.
  • I made them on the savoury side and dropped the sugar. I added herbs, anchovies, garlic and dried green onions. It was delicious with a dollop of cream cheese on top and some cucumber.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Moroccan stuffed chicken with spinach - roasted or steamed option

Steamed or roasted chicken recipes are one of the healthiest meal options in Moroccan cooking. You can combine both cooking methods by steaming the birds ahead of time then roast them for colour and texture in the last minutes or you can marinate them and roast them on time just before lunch or dinner. Then you can also serve leftovers in many ways (sandwich, salad...)

Steaming chicken or meat to make Moroccan m'bakhkhars keeps them moist and prevent them from drying. If you try out this method, I'm sure you will love it.

The same recipe is valid to make the roasted version and have the birds in the oven without going through the steaming method although sometimes we combine them both as explained many times in this post, in which case roasting is just to heat the birds and give them some colour and extra texture just before serving.

When we have family gathering, this recipe is one of the "must serve" for a lighter option in case anyone is on diet. More recipes and stuffing option on making this dish can be found here.

Before you marinate the chicken, you want to decide which colour you are going for. You could marinate the chicken with a red effect by adding more paprika to the chermoula (the mix of herbs and spices used) or with a yellow effect by adding turmeric which also will call for ginger. Both are a matter of choice.

After the chicken is cooked through and steamed properly, or you could either semi-roast it or serve it as it is. We like to semi-roast it for a nice golden colour just before serving.

Serving stuffed chicken with herbs with pickles all around
The liver, heart, gizzard are also added to the stuffing. They also get sauteed separately with a bit of seasoning before adding them to the rest. In Europe, I have to buy them separately and I tend to forget them..So I'm omitting them in the recipe considering how hard it is to get them here

Serves 10-12
Prep: 20 min - Cooking: 1 h
  • 3 medium-size chickens, prepared and brined according to this method
Marinade (chermoula)
  • 5 onions, medium-size, chopped
  • 3 yellow lemons, juiced
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
  • 4 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 tbsp of harissa
  • 3 tbsp of sweet paprika 
  • 5 tbsps of flat parsley leaves, chopped
  • 5 tbsps of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbps of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of smen (Moroccan clarified butter ) or ghee

Stuffing: herbs and chermoula (depending on the cavities, extra can be served as a cold salad)
  • 1.5 - 2 kgs of spinach (frozen will do), you can mix with chard, purslane, mallow leaves..
  • 500 g of green or purple olives, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped herbs (coriander and parsley)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin
  • 1-2 tbsp of harissa
  • 2 tbsps of sweet paprika
  • 1-2 preserved lemon, chopped
  • 5 tbsps of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Adding precooked rice or pre-soaked rice vermicelli to the herbs stuffing is a possible option 


Prepare the chickens

First of all, clean the chickens thoroughly and dip it in a brine for at least 3 hours (water, vinegar, salt and lemon).

Try to get rid of any fat between the skin and the meat (yep, those white spots, you will never find them in a chicken cooked Moroccan style). Be careful not to tear up the skin..

Wash the birds from the brine and pat-dry it, smear the cavities with chermoula and also under the skin of each bird.  

Massage the chickens with chermoula rub. Tuck your fingers under the skin and make sure every bit of the flesh has been covered with that rub. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.

Make the stuffing

Again, make the chermoula by mixing to a paste the coriander, parsley, garlic, spices, oil and a couple of tablespoons of water if it's needed. Set aside.

Steam the chopped spinach (chard, purslane, mallow) in a couscoussier over hot boiling water (drop into that water some roughly chopped onions for more flavour) until they seem wilted. Don't worry about fitting all that pile inside the couscoussier as the herbs will release space as they steam so you can just add more progressively. Set aside to cool then squeeze out excess liquid.

In a saucepan or a frying pan, slightly saute the chermoula mix for a minute then stir in the chopped spinach and co.. Set aside.

Stuff the chicken's cavity from the bottom then from the neck to ensure it's properly filled. Seal it with a toothpick (this can be made a day ahead)

Cooking the chickens

Steam the chicken in the top part of the couscoussier over hot boiling water. Again you can chop in some onions for flavour. Cover the chickens to allow proper and even cooking. The birds should be ready after 45 to 60 min depending on the size.

Should you want to go for a full roast or partial roast, make sure to massage the birds with a bit of olive oil or butter (or smen) before placing them in a hot oven (200 degrees C). Roast all sides (rotate the bird every 15 min) leaving the breast at the end. Make sure it's all cooked through.

Accompanying vegetables

Steam the vegetables (whole new potatoes, sliced carrots, sliced turnips, sliced courgettes, green beans..) until cooked. Before serving, pass then in a pan with butter, cumin and salt for a couple of minutes. You could add chopped coriander or/and parsley. 

Optionally, you could roast the potatoes.


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