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!
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Moroccan Chickpea and Roasted Cauliflower Tagine

Recently, I’ve been craving a dish with origins in the Maghreb area. Before giving up meat, lamb tagine was one of my favourite dishes to cook. Having become vegetarian, I have been looking for ways to recreate the same spicy yet sweet flavours of Morocco that I had come to enjoy.


A couple of years ago I bought my mother a cookbook on all things Morocco for her birthday. She had become obsessed with Marrakesh after one particular episode of The Amazing Race and she had added it to her list of places to travel to. Since then she’s visited the pyramids in Egypt, Interlaken in Switzerland and NgoroNgoro in Tanzania but Morocco hasn’t been fitted into her schedule as yet. Instead, we take a journey to Casablanca through our tastebuds and the magnificent cookbook that explains every aspect of Moroccan culture.


As a veggie, I’ve found that there aren’t that many options for vegetarian tagine, I couldn’t find a single recipe in that book! Refusing to give up, I modified the lamb tagine recipe, substituting lamb for chickpeas, and adding some of my own flair to this recipe via the roasted cauliflower. All the other ingredients are typical of a tagine and I beg you to not be thrown by the seemingly long ingredient list- you can do it! This is not a particularly fussy dish, you don’t need to spend 3 hours in the kitchen preparing it. This is easy enough to be a weekly staple in your household yet sophisticated enough to wow your dinner party guests.


I don’t own a traditional tagine, the closest thing we have in my house is this clay pot that my mother received as a gift for her 23rd birthday (centuries ago) but it does the job with no fuss. The only thing it lacks is the conical top of a tagine otherwise it does a splendid job at keeping the juices locked in. If you don’t own a tagine then there is no need to cry, you can use any heavy bottomed cast iron pot that you would otherwise use for stewing meat.

I hope that this dish opens you up to the flavours of Morocco and inspires you to try more North African dishes! On the blog, I already posted this easy Shakshuka recipe that has origins in North Africa but is eaten as far as Israel! Whoa! Once you’re satisfied with this bad boy, you should totally give it a try for breakfast the next morning.

Moroccan Chickpea and Roasted Cauliflower Tagine                                                  serves 4 

Ingredients

For the tagine: 

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flaked, blanched almonds
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • a couple of sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 small chillies, deseeded and sliced thinly (optional)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 200g tinned tomatoes/½ can tinned tomatoes
  • 1×400g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 6 prunes, soaked in cold water for an hour
  • 2 tbsp honey

For the roasted cauliflower: 

  • 2 medium heads of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp runny honey (if not runn, microwave for 30 seconds)

For the buttery couscous: 

  • 1 cup couscous (I used apricot and cashew flavour but if using plain, you may add soaked dried apricot and chopped cashews to the mixture)
  • 1 and ½ cups boiling water
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter (omit if vegan)

To serve:

  • a couple of rotis to mop up the soup
  • fresh herbs
  • yogurt if you find it too spicy

Make the tagine: 

  1. In a tagine or a large heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter/heat the olive oil and toast the almonds on low heat for 3 minutes or until deeply browned.
  2. Increase the heat and saute the onions until soft, 2 minutes. Throw in the garlic, ginger, rosemary, chillies, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon sticks. Cook until the spices are fragrant and the onions have cooked down, about 5 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and the tinned tomatoes, stir well and bring to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, add the chickpeas and stir to coat in the stew.
  3. Cover the pot/tagine with the lid and simmer for 25 minutes. My clay pot was an awkward size and wasn’t heated evenly by the stove so I cooked mine in the oven at 180°C for 30 minutes. Either works perfectly fine so you can go with whatever works best for you. Meanwhile, work on the roasted cauliflower (instructions below).
  4. After 30 minutes, stir the stew and season with salt and pepper. Add the prunes and roasted cauliflower to the pot and simmer for a further 15 minutes. During this time, you can prepare the couscous (instructions below).
  5. Just before serving, stir in the honey to sweeten the dish and season with salt and pepper a final time. Serve hot, garnish with extra almonds and fresh parsley and serve with rotis and the buttery couscous.

To make the roasted cauliflower: 

In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients for the roasted cauliflower and lay in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast for 20 minutes before removing from the oven to cool. I saved a couple of roasted cauliflower florets to garnish and make the dish look prety when serving.

To prepare the couscous:

Add the dry couscous to an ovenproof bowl (I used a Pyrex dish). Dissolve the salt in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Set aside for 10 minutes in order for the couscous to absorb the liquid. Once absorbed, pour the olive oil over the couscous and use your hands to rub it into the couscous and break up any large clumps that may have formed. Dollop pieces of the butter over the surface of the couscous before covering the dish with aluminium foil, and leaving in an oven preheated to 180°C for 15 minutes to warm through. Remove from the oven and serve hot!