Baghrir (1000 holes crêpes)

I read a post on Instagram of someone asking to share a vivid childhood memory. It got me thinking about my own childhood. How the world feels and looks different when you are a child. The park in your neighborhood feels like a never-ending forest, playgrounds are immense and every day is a new adventure. I sometimes miss that in my adult life. That feeling that you view the whole world through eyes of excitement and wonder. The way a child takes the time to see amazing things in life that you don’t notice anymore as an adult. Like the excitement you felt when you found a sow bug and other crawling creatures when you lifted up a rock for the first time 😉 .

Thinking about my childhood I remembered a playground in Alkmaar (The Netherlands) where we used to go with my niece and nephews when we visited them. This playground had a few arches made out of concrete and we played tag or catch with a ball while climbing on the arches. I used to come home with my legs and arms full of abrasions from climbing these arches, but I didn’t care. They looked something like this, only with graffiti sprayed all over them:

playground concrete arches

The arches were immense in my memories, they may well have been as high as the Mount Everest. Sometimes I even needed help to climb on top of them. We had so much fun playing there that every time we visited them we went to that same playground. We never got bored playing there even if (or maybe because) it forced us to be imaginative because the arches were all that was there. There was no swing or sandbox or anything else in that playground. We made up all kinds of games to play on the arches and stayed there until the sun went down.

Fast forward 25 years and I went back to that same playground when I was visiting my sister who lives in Alkmaar and found the arches were still there. Only: they were really small! I could easily look over them as they were shoulder height. I couldn’t believe my eyes. In my memory they were at least 3 meters high. Something tells me I will always remember this playground. I will always have memories of that magical playground where I climbed arches as high as the Mount Everest. Being back on that playground filled me with so much nostalgia that I found myself sitting there for over half an hour just reminiscing. All of a sudden I was 10 years old again and I saw my sisters, my niece and my nephews running around on the playground, screaming and laughing at each other. I just sat there with a smile on my face…………

You will probably want to know what above story has to do with food and more specifically this recipe? Well, nothing to be honest. It was just something I wanted to share with you. I promise next blog post will be about food again and there is always the ‘jump to recipe’ button if you’re only here for the recipe 🙂 .

Ok, let’s talk food then………..You know what also brings back vivid memories from the past? The smell, taste, and sight of particular food. I already told you about my memories of msemmen. A similar breakfast treat from my childhood is Baghrir, also called 1000 holes pancakes. Baghrir is actually a Tamazight word (Berber language) that means “too soft”. The texture is so soft and luscious that you will understand why they are called that way when you eat them. My mum used to make this on the weekends for us and there is nothing like it. Please try the recipe and be amazed, like a child eating something new and exotic that sounds like something from a fairy tale of 1001 nights. I would love to hear what your most vivid childhood memory is. You can leave me a comment below if you want to share it.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 5 votes
Baghrir (1000 holes crêpes)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
2 hrs
 
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Moroccan, North African
Servings: 12 pancakes
Ingredients
  • 300 grams of fine semolina
  • 100 grams of flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tbs vanilla sugar
  • 2 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tbs active dry yeast
  • 550 ml lukewarm water
  • 50 ml lukewarm water (extra)
Instructions
  1. Sieve the semolina and flour into a large bowl. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well. Add half of the water and mix until it’s incorporated. Pour this mixture into a blender and mix it for 5 minutes at the highest setting until there are no lumps and the batter is smooth. The long blending time allows the semolina to become finely ground so it thickens the batter. Add the remainder of the water and mix it for another minute in the blender. If you don’t have a blender place all the ingredients in a large bowl and use an immersion blender instead. Pour the batter back into your bowl and cover it with cling film. 

  2. Let the batter rise in a warm place for 60-90 minutes. The batter is ready when you see bubbles on the surface. Take off the cling film and add 50ml of water and mix/fold this in very carefully making sure not to pop all the bubbles. 

  3. Heat the oven to 160°C and line a baking sheet with a kitchen towel. Heat an non-stick skillet over medium heat. Wait for the pan to be very hot to start baking the baghrir, otherwise you won’t get many holes on your pancakes. As soon as your skillet is ready pour the batter into it. The honeycomb holes will start forming immediately. Cook the baghrir, undisturbed, until holes set on the surface and there are no more wet spots visible. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes. Be sure to keep the heat low enough so the bottom just barely turns colour (you want it to stay as light as possible). 

  4. When fully cooked you transfer the baghrir onto the baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest of the batter. Don’t pile up your baghrir while they are still hot, as they will stick together. 

  5. When ready to serve, arrange the baghrir on a serving platter and serve hot, drizzled with a mixture of melted butter and warmed honey. Some people choose to top it with olive oil, orange blossom water, sugar, jam, or amlou paste (toasted almonds, argan oil and honey). I however still prefer the traditional butter and honey mixture which my mum always used.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Pineapple Express’ where Seth Rogen is driving in his car and says: ‘Couscous: the food so nice they named it twice’. Being a Berber Moroccan myself who is brought up eating couscous like the Italians eat pasta I can only agree with Seth on this. Couscous is delicious, convenient and very versatile and I make sure I always have it in my pantry, ready to be turned into a salad or served with a fragrant brothy stew. It’s a great vehicle for all sorts of flavour combinations.

Couscous is a traditional dish of the Berbers who actually call it ‘Seksu’ which means ‘well rolled’ or ‘rounded’ in Berber. The more common name ‘couscous’ comes from the Arabic language. For years, couscous-preparing knowledge was passed on from mother to daughter in the Berber society. Knowing how to prepare couscous was an important element of a young woman’s dowry. So my mum did her duty and taught me how to prepare couscous the proper way 🙂 . Little did she know that her daughter would have such a busy job, that she rarely would have the time to cook the couscous the proper way. Instant couscous is just too convenient, especially when you come home and dinner needs to be on the table in an hour, max.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Couscous is no longer an important meal just for Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians. Nowadays it’s enjoyed all over the world. When I say couscous, I mean the traditional small granules that look like grains, but are actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina (a type of wheat). Couscous is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until minuscule little balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and later steamed in a couscoussier (unless of course  you use the instant version). A couscoussier is a traditional double-chambered food steamer. It is typically made of two interlocking pots made of metal. The bottom part, which is the larger one, holds water or broth used to produce steam. The smaller pot, which is designed to be placed on top of the first, has a lid, and a perforated bottom. It holds the couscous in place while allowing the steam to enter and reach the couscous.

couscoussier steaming couscous

So, when I say couscous I don’t mean giant couscous. Who ever thought of that name? There’s no such thing as giant couscous. Don’t get me wrong, there is something which kind of looks like couscous, but is much bigger than the normal couscous, but I would never call it giant couscous or pearl couscous or Israeli couscous, simply because it’s not couscous. These products are not as similar as their names lead you to believe. Let me give you some of the differences: whereas couscous is traditionally dried before it’s cooked, the big ‘couscous’ (which is actually called p’titim) is toasted in the oven, giving it a slight toasty flavour. Where the real couscous is prepared by steaming, p’titim is boiled, like pasta or prepared in a way risotto is also prepared.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

Having said that……………….I love p’titim, we just need to stop calling it couscous. I read an article saying that experts in Algeria are working on a project to include North African couscous on UNESCO’s world heritage list. That’s the other extreme in my opinion, but I understand why they would want to do that.

Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 1 vote
Spicy chicken drumsticks with p’titim salad
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
For the chicken
  • 120 ml honey
  • 2 tbs rose harissa
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 8-10 (1.2kg) free-range chicken drumsticks
For the salad
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (2 for frying and 2 for the 'dressing')
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 spring onions
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 300 g P’titim (or pearl couscous for the ignorant 😉 , read my blogpost)
  • 400 g chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 15 g parsley, chopped
  • 15 g mint, chopped
  • 120 g pomegranate seeds
  • 100 g almonds, toasted and chopped
Instructions
  1. Add the honey, rose harissa, crushed garlic, lemon zest and half the lemon juice into a large bowl. Season with a 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper and stir to combine. Add the chicken and turn to coat and let it marinate for at least 2 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 220°C when ready to cook. Line a baking tray with baking paper and transfer the chicken to the baking tray. Roast the chicken for 35-45 minutes or until cooked through and golden, basting every 15 minutes with the mixture from the bowl.

  3. Cook the p’titim according to packet instructions (mine took 10 minutes), then drain in a colander, cool under cold running water and let it drain thoroughly.

  4. Fry the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and spring onion and fry them for another 3 minutes. Then add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and season well with 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of pepper. Fry for one more minute and then add the chickpeas also for one more minute. Take off the heat and add the other half of the lemon juice and the chopped parsley and mint (save a little bit of the herbs for garnish). Tip everything in a shallow salad bowl that will also fit the cooked p’titim. Add the p’titim to the salad bowl when it’s completely drained. Peel the pomegranate and toast the almonds and add them to the bowl together with 2 tbsp of olive oil and combine until everything is mixed.

  5. Arrange the p’titim salad on a large platter, top with drumsticks and scatter with extra herbs.

Stuffed Moroccan bread

Being Moroccan, love for homemade bread is in my blood. It’s something I grew up with. I vividly remember the aroma that filled the house as my mum was baking bread. We used to eat bread with almost every meal when I was growing up so we baked it every other day. If you consider that the house smelled amazing when mum used to make her ‘plain’ bread you can only imagine what it was like when she made her famous stuffed bread for us. We called this bread ‘boegensoe’ which simply means ‘stuffed’ or ‘with something inside’.

My mum would make Moroccan harira soup and this stuffed bread to go with it and we would be in heaven. Slices of this golden loaf would disappear in a hurry and if you didn’t pay attention you would be too late to grab a piece. I have a lot of siblings so one had to be quick at the dinner table. Kind of like survival of the fittest, or better yet, fastest. Every Moroccan mum probably has her own stuffed bread recipe, so there is not ‘one recipe’ but my mum’s recipe is so good you’ll want to stuff your face with it.

When I make this recipe for my kids it brings back so many memories, I only need to take one bite and I’m there again! Funny enough this bread is as common for me as pizza is for most people and I did not consider it a special recipe until I shared a ‘how to’ on Instagram. It turned out to be my most liked post ever. Especially the video where I show how to close the dough after putting the filling on it. I had so many requests for sharing the recipe after posting it, that of course I had to share it on my blog as well.

The filling in this version is made with minced beef, leeks, bell peppers and lots of fresh herbs and spices. However, you can vary your choice of filling. You can use different meat (lamb, chicken, even fish is possible) and you can also use different vegetables. It’s a very forgiving recipe…..… you can include almost anything, the bread makes a great ‘carrier’ for all the flavours. The only thing you will need to keep in mind is that you should cut the filling as small as you can. This ensures that the filling cannot poke holes in your dough causing it to leak on your baking sheet. You should also make sure you use enough, but not too much filling. What I’m talking about here is ratios. You need to have the right ratio of filling for your stuffed bread.

My Mums stuffed Moroccan bread

If you have made bread before than making this bread is relatively easy…………………..Remember the theory of relativity? Take this recipe for example. The bread gets stuffed, you get stuffed, but you’re relatively better off.

If you haven’t made bread before than you will need some practice to get it right. Make sure you use strong bread flour to get the best results. My mum always made it with regular all-purpose flour from the supermarket, but then again I don’t have my mum’s magic hands. I rely on good flour and a lot of practice. You will see that the more you bake bread the better it will turn out.

My Mums stuffed Moroccan bread

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

My Mums stuffed Moroccan bread      My Mums stuffed Moroccan bread

 

Moroccan Stuffed Bread
Servings: 8 people
Ingredients
Dough
  • 600 gr flour
  • 11 gr salt
  • 10 gr sugar
  • 5 gr commercial dried yeast
  • 400 gr of water (yes, in grams not ml)
Filling
  • 500 gr minced beef (or any other meat you fancy)
  • 1-2 leeks, about 400gr, chopped finely
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground koriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp raz-el-hanout
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 10 grams of koriander
  • 10 grams of parsley
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Knead for 15 minutes in your stand mixer or knead the dough by hand until it’s nice and elastic. See how elastic mine was after proofing in my Instagram video. Let it proof for 45-60min until it doubles in size.

  2. Chop all the vegetables finely otherwise it will poke holes in the dough when you use it as a filling. Heat up some olive oil in a large casserole and fry the leeks over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the meat and break it up with a spatula, than add the bell peppers and spices. Cook until everything is soft and cooked through. Make sure the filling is not too wet, if so then cook a bit longer so the moisture evaporates. Taste and add salt or any of the other spices until it tastes good. Take it off the heat and mix in the parsley and coriander and let it cool before you used it in the dough.

  3. Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 250gr. Let it rest for 15 min. Press it down a little, enough to be able to add the filling. Put the filling on top and close the dough over the filling. See how I do that in above video in my blogpost. Close the dough firmly, let it rest for 20min to relax the gluten and then carefully flatten it into circles. Be careful not to tear it. Let the flattened disks proof for 30-45 min and bake in a hot oven 200C until golden brown.

 

Moroccan Msemmen

Nothing like certain food to unblock the floodgates of memory. Most of us have a memory of a food that takes us back to our childhood. For me, one of those foods is msemmen which we had for breakfast when I was growing up, especially during cold and snowy winters. My mother would make these delicious treats at the weekend for us. Even though they are just a simple kind of square pancake for me it’s one of the best Moroccan breakfast dishes ever and of course it is because essentially it’s fried dough. Who doesn’t like fried dough, right? But the fact that it’s simple doesn’t matter. Somehow memories involving food are very vivid and feel more powerful than other memories. Why is that? I guess food memories aren’t just based on the food I ate, but are shaped by the atmosphere in which I ate it, the company I was with and the situation and the emotions involved.

Msemmen are the best fresh and hot from the griddle with honey and a cup of aromatic mint tea or coffee. The most traditional way, however, is to dip msemmen in hot syrup made from butter and honey. It will get a bit messy at the breakfast table because the msemmen will be sticky, sweet and delicious. On other occasions, my mum would stuff them with vegetables or meat fillings and serve them at dinner time with a nice bowl of harira which is a Moroccan soup. But that’s a story for another time.

What I love most about msemmen is that they are crispy, flaky, and fluffy all at the same time. This is due to the laminating of the dough. Laminated dough refers to the process of folding butter into dough multiple times to create very thin alternating layers of butter and dough. This process results in a pastry with multiple flaky, airy layers when it’s baked. They are made by flattening the dough on an oiled surface until paper thin, dotting it with butter and semolina, then folding it into thirds (twice) to shape a layered pancake. The key being that while folding, one must sprinkle semolina on the layers to prevent the layers from sticking to each other and to allow for the heat to then separate the layers when cooked on a griddle.

You’ll need enough workspace to shape the dough into squares. A granite countertop or otherwise a plastic or metal tray will all do. Msemmen store beautifully in the freezer and are easy to reheat when you crave a quick and delicious breakfast.

Please don’t be alarmed by the quantity of oil and butter used in the process of shaping the msemmen. All that oil won’t be absorbed into the dough. Done properly, msemmen shouldn’t feel greasy or be any more indulgent than other treats such as croissants or donuts. Try not to be like msemmen and get all flipped out about the calories, be like syrup and go with the flow. If you eat everything in moderation you will never have to feel guilty.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Moroccan Msemmen
Servings: 8 Msemmen Breads
Ingredients
Dough
  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 100 g fine semolina
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 300-325 ml lukewarm water
For folding and cooking the msemmen:
  • 50 g vegetable oil
  • 50 g very soft unsalted butter
  • 30 g fine semolina
Instructions
  1. Make the dough by mixing all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer.

  2. Start by adding 300ml of lukewarm water and mix to form a dough. Add more water if necessary to make a dough that is soft and easy to knead, but not sticky. If the dough is too sticky to handle, add a little flour 1 tablespoon at a time*.

  3. Divide the dough into balls the size of golf balls. Pre-shape the balls making sure the surface of the balls is smooth. Transfer them onto an oiled tray, cover loosely with plastic and leave to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

  4. In the meanwhile put the butter, the vegetable oil and the semolina in three separate bowls ready to use when your dough is rested enough to proceed.

  5. In order to shape the dough you generously oil your work surface and your hands.Take one ball and dip it in the oil and place it on your work space. Gently spread the dough into a paper-thin circle. Try to be careful not to tear the dough so oil your hands as often as needed so that they slide easily over the dough.

  6. Dot the flattened dough with butter and sprinkle with semolina. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter to form an elongated rectangle. Dot again with butter, sprinkle with semolina, and fold again into thirds to form a square. Once the msemmen is folded, another is spread that one is used to envelope a prior folded msemmen so as to create multiple internal layers of dough. Leave to rest a short while before flattening and cooking. Transfer the folded dough to the oiled tray and repeat with the remaining balls of dough. Keep track of the order in which you folded the squares.

  7. Heat your griddle or frying pan over medium heat until quite hot. Starting with the first msemmen you folded, take a square of dough and place on your oiled work surface. Oil your hands and pat the dough firmly to flatten it to double its original size.

  8. Transfer the flattened square to the hot griddle and cook, turning several times, until cooked through, crispy on the exterior and golden in color. Transfer to a rack.

  9. Repeat with the remaining squares, working with them in the order in which they were folded. Serve the msemmen immediately, or allow to cool completely before freezing**.

  10. * The amount of water needed depends on the quality of absorption of the flour you are using.

    **Msemmen can be reheated directly from the freezer in a frying pan placed over medium-low heat.