Moroccan M’hanncha, Spiced Vegetables in a Pastry Casing

This looks a lot more complicated than it actually is.


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.


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.


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!


Moroccan M’hanncha                                                                    Adapted from Jamie Oliver


  • 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)


  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!

Cosy Winter Vegetable Pot Pie

My mother needed an excuse to make puff pastry, and as my head is already set in the ‘Winter Dishes’ mood, I decided that a cosy pot pie was in order.

With only 3 months left before I depart for the University of Pennsylvania, my mother is desperately trying to gauge my culinary knowledge before she’s left alone in the kitchen. So this weekend she came up with a proposition: for me to teach her how to make puff pastry. Alors, we spent all of Sunday afternoon rolling and making pastry turns until our arms got tired. But hey, it yielded this wonderfully flaky pastry, didn’t she do a good job?

My brother is a huge fan of pot pies. Whenever we go out for dinner, that is his go-to order unless there are ribs on the menu of course. As a vegetarian, I couldn’t grant his wish for sticky barbecue ribs but I was able to deliver with these steaming flavourful pot pies. For a fancy dinner-party worthy dish, these are incredibly easy to prepare. 

As we in Zimbabwe are preparing for winter, I’ll be whipping up a big batch of puff pastry with my mother just so we can have these pies as and when we please!

Cosy Winter Vegetable Pot Pie                                                                             serves 4-6


  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 250g white button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped into bite sized pieces
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup dry brown/red lentils (I used a mixture)
  • ¾ cup split green peas
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • some salt and pepper to season
  • 1 sheet puff pastry


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Heat a large cast iron pot on high and fry the onions until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic and carrots and cook until the vegetables are tender and the garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally to prevent the garlic from burning, for 5-7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add another splash of vegetable oil with the flour and toss until the vegetables are coated in flour and you have a thick paste, as if you’re making a roux for Bechamel sauce. Pour the vegetable stock into the pot and stir to dissolve the flour in the stock. Once dissolved, add the lentils and split green peas and stir to distribute. Add the oregano, cinnamon, thyme and some S&P to taste.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils and peas are soft and cooked through. You’re going to want to watch the pot very carefully here as the mixture will thicken considerably and will burn if left for too long. If the mixture seems very thick and the pulses haven’t cooked as yet, add a cup of water to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Grease a 9×13 dish (bear in mind the pastry will only cover the top of the dish if you use this) or an 8 inch pie dish (will cover bottom and top) or 4 different 5 inch pie dishes (will cover top and bottom). Roll the puff pastry out to the desired size then trim to fit your chosen vessel. If not using the 9×13 dish, the fit the puff pastry in the bottom and sides of the dish.
  5. Once the filling has cooked distribute it evenly amongst the serving plates. Cover with the remaining puff pastry. If you have scrap puff pastry, you can use a cookie cutter to cut shapes into it and use it as a topping like what I did with these stars. Bake in the preheated oven for 37-40 minutes or until the pastry is deep golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes at room temperature before serving. Leftovers will keep sealed tightly in the fridge for up to 3 days. Enjoy!