Moroccan M’hanncha, Spiced Vegetables in a Pastry Casing

This looks a lot more complicated than it actually is.

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If there is ever a dish that I have struggled to photograph: it is this one right here. From the disasters I had rolling up pastry to the dilemma of how to make a blob of pastry look pretty: I’ve been through it all. The traditional m’hanncha spirals several times like a snake as you can see from the cookbook image, whilst mine looks more like a curled up sloth. However, I can assure you that for what my version of this dish lacks in aesthetics, it has in flavour.

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During my second attempt at this much beloved dish I miscalculated the amount of pastry I would need and let’s just say that the results left much more to be desired (see embarrassing photo below). Granted, the original recipe from Jamie Oliver had called for filo  pastry instead of puff pastry, I was clearly destined for failure. Nevertheless, this story is one of perseverance and you can tell from the other (less embarrassing) photos that I eventually prevailed.

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The combination of sweet dates and spicy veg works wonders and makes for an epic journey for your tastebuds. Everything is wrapped up in a crispy, flaky pastry crust and that just sends it right over the edge!

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Moroccan M’hanncha                                                                    Adapted from Jamie Oliver

Ingredients:

  • 1 and ½ cups of wild rice (can substitute quinoa, barley or brown rice)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup dates, soaked and deseeded
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (can substitute dried apricots)
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (optional)

Method:

  1. Start by cooking the wild rice according to the packet instructions. In this case, 1 and ½ cups of wild rice translates to 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on. Allow to steam for 10 minutes before using.
  2. Whilst the rice is cooking, add the olive oil, chilli flakes, cumin seeds and coriander to a large frying pan on medium-low heat and cook for 30 seconds or until the spices are fragrant. Throw in the butternut, onions, garlic and red peppers and stir to coat in the spices. Cook the vegetables with the lid on for about 20 minutes, or until the butternut is fork tender. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Chop the dates finely add them to the vegetable pan with the cranberries and wild rice. Squeeze the lemon over the veg mix and stir to combine. Make sure to really mix everything together.
  4. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Dust a worktop with flour, you don’t want your pastry to be sticking to the counter! Roll out your puff pastry into a large rectangle that’s about 70cm × 30cm. Spread your filling in an even layer over the top of the pastry, leaving a ½ inch border. I recommend wetting your hands for the next part because we’re about to rolllllllll this up!
  5. Be careful with this part, as you’ve seen this can end in disaster. Carefully roll up the pastry into a long roll, being careful not to tear the pastry. As we are using puff pastry as opposed to the traditional filo roll, this is going to be a lot bulkier than the traditional m’hanncha. Curl the ends of the roll towards each other, if you can, try to get it to spiral like a snake. Th first time I made this, I was able to get 2 curls but the last time attempts haven’t been as successful…..
  6. Bake the pastry in the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Slice and serve with the vegetable broth if desired, enjoy!

Author: andreamakamba

Proudly Zimbabwean. Food lover. Book reader. Fact hoarder. Dream chaser

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