Monday, 10 November 2014

Moroccan superfood mix: Zemmita

I always thought that Zemmita was actually Sellou, only more sandy and slightly darker in colour. Well it was only half the truth. Mind you, we even have a song for Zemmita (here, with the Mohammed Bouzoubaa. a famous singer close to our family and who happens to be seriously ill the last 5 years due to his age).

In the cities of Meknes and Fes and all around them, Zemmita is just another name for sellou or sfouf, a sweet healthy energy Moroccan sweet with a texture ranging between sandy to compact.

In my last trip to Morocco, I found out that zemmita is being sold as a powder in many places. I have to say that the beginning of my trip coincided with Ramadan so people were definitely in need of something to keep them strong for as much as it could last.

Then I went to visit my dear friends El Yazami family who own some shops in Casablanca with a decent reputation of selling good ingredients and some Moroccan cheese and yoghurts, some homemade Moroccan sweets, couscous grains of all sorts, Khlii, etc..


I was lucky to find Mrs El Yazami and had quite a long chat with here. During my visit, I spotted some packets of zemmita. Knowing that Mr El Yazami is from Fassi origin (Fez), I just though that this was a sort of dried sellou waiting to mixed with the wet ingredients to finish off the recipe. Mrs El Yazami told me that this was another zemmita rather from Casablanca area and that she made it based on an old recipe from her old grandma who inherited it from her mother. In fact, other regions of Morocco follow the same logic in preparing it, only with less ingredients depending on their availability.


While Mrs. El Yazami told me to mix the zemmita mix with water, salt and olive oil and adjust the consistency to my liking before digging in with a spoon, my sister whose former In-Laws are deeply rooted in this area too told me that she used to makes balls out of the mix, which is rather convenient as a morning energy pick-me-up!



That sort of stories brings sparkles to my eyes. I was even lucky to see the recipe in her little notebook as she was kind enough to show it to me. It didn't stop there, I made some research (as usual) to cover the story!

Making zemmita is not an easy thing as the list of ingredients is rather daunting! It's not the usual stuff you will find in your cupboard unless you are from that region of Morocco with the intention to make zemmita, so you collect your ingredients ahead of time depending on their availability (for some of them).

I'm posting zemmita recipe guidelines as I want to share with the world one of the incredibly old Moroccan superfood mixtures that's worth knowing. Be aware that these are family recipes which depend on their owners so it will be different from one family to another. However, the main ingredients would rather be the same. I've come up with one after all this research I've been doing.

A limited version of pre-packed zemmita sold in Casablanca markets. Similar sachets but with different ingredients and producer were sold in Essaouira
So, hold your breathe, here is what you may find in an authentic Zemmita in Casablanca and down below all the way to the South of Morocco.

Local millet seeds

Dried lemon verbena

Ingredients
Serves 50 +
Prep: 1 hour

Pulses, grains, nuts and seeds for the base (all highlighted is mandatory)

  • 500g to 1 kg barley grains (if not using the wheat grains)
  • 500g of wheat grains
  • 500g dried chickpeas 
  • 300g of melon seeds (any type)
  • 250g sesame seeds 
  • 250g flax seeds
  • 250g dried fava beans, skin off
  • 250g of dried corn
  • 200g millet or sargho seeds
  • 120g pumpkin seeds
  • 120g of sunflower seeds
  • 120g soybeans 
  • 120g of almond 
  • 70g of carob 
  • 70g jujube seeds 
  • 70g watermelon seeds

Herbs, spices and flavourings (all highlighted is mandatory)

  • 2 tbsp ground caraway 
  • 1 teaspoon mastic gum
  • 2 tbsps of dried pennyroyal powder
  • 1 whole nutmeg, ground
  • 1 tbsp ground aniseed 
  • 1 tbsp of ground fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsps of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 3 tsps dried thyme 
  • 3 tsps dried lemon verbena
  • 3 tsps of dried marjoram 
  • 3 tsps of dried wild balm or Mentha suaveolens
  • 2 tsps of dried sage

To mix zemmita
Option 1: extra virgin olive oil and honey to taste, boiling water to bring to a thick paste,
Option 2: melted farmer's butter and honey to taste
Option 3: extra virgin olive oil and/or water for a savoury version.

Fennel seeds and aniseed

Jujube, usually available in summer season in Morocco

Preparation

Make the zemmita powder

All seeds and grains should be pre-toasted in the oven for a few minutes. Some take longer than others so proceed by type. The same logic goes for the grinding process.

To toast the chickpeas properly, we usually heat a good amount of sands over medium heat and fold in the chickpeas then we stir until the chickpeas seem "cooked" (minimum 30 min). A strainer is used afterwards to separate the chickpeas from sand.

All herbs and spices should be finely ground.



You need a seriously strong food processor to grind all grains and pulses. In Morocco, especially in the remote places, a manual wheel grinder "tahouna" is used. In the cities, all these ingredients are sent to local mills.

First, sift this fragrant powder to avoid the presence of any grits in the final mix. Then rub with your hands to make sure all is blended.

Make the zemminta balls

Whichever option you choose, All liquids must be warmed to blend easily.

Mix the zemmita powder with enough liquid to form a ball. Either you mix ahead of serving day and you shape walnut-size balls or mix the amount of powder needed when you really need it then use a spoon to eat it.




Note:

I usually don't endorse brands or anyone unless I believe in them. This is the reason behind me sharing Traiteur (caterer) Yazami's contact details.

His shops can be found at the following addresses (both in Casablanca):

1 - 104 boulevard moulay idriss 1er quartier des hopitaux - Tel: +212 522 86 56 66
2 -   40, Boulevard Bir Anzarane - Tel: + 212 5 22 25 96 96

You can find a variety of couscous grains coming straight from women associations to promote their rights and financial independence in remote areas. All couscous grains (millet, wheat, barley, rice, corn...) are hand-rolled.

You can also find homemade-style Raib (Moroccan yoghurt), traditional Jben (white cheese), Khlii Fez-style, Moroccan sweets and breads and other Gluten-free and organic products.



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