Saturday, February 24, 2007

Moroccan Mouthfuls

Although I can't eat pastry (wretched gluten and dairy), I am always fascinated by the nutty delicacies that are served at the end of Middle Eastern meals. I watch my fellow diner's eyes roll skyward and listen to the appreciative murmurs that seep out of their every pore and think "if only I could have that effect." Culinary speaking, you understand.

And so I tried my hand at Claudia Roden's recipe for M'Hencha or Almond 'Snake'.
These coils of delight look incredible yet are deceptively easy to make, although a little time consuming. But soooo worth the effort if the resultant 'mmmmmm' factor is to be believed. One grateful recipient refused to believe that they were homemade - result!

Almond 'Snake'
(makes approximately 15)
For the filling:
750g ground almonds
500g caster sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
100-125ml orange blossom water

For the pastry:
250g sheets of filo pastry
60g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg yolk mixed with water

Preheat the oven to 170 C / gas 3.
Mix all the filling ingredients together and knead them into a paste with your hands (this is great for your skin by the way!). Take lumps of the paste and roll between your palms into 'snakes' about 2cm thick.
Put a pile of filo sheets in front of you with the longer sides facing you.
Brush the top sheet of pastry with melted butter and place the fingers of almond paste along the length about 2cm in from the edge to make one long log of paste.
Roll the filo up over the filling into a long, thin cigar and tuck the ends in to stop it all squirting out.
Lift the roll onto a work surface and push gently in from both ends as if (according to Ms Roden) playing an accordion! Then gently curve into a coil so it resembles a snake. Repeat with the rest of the pastry.
Brush all the coils with the egg yolk and water glaze, pop on a baking sheet and cook in the middle of an oven for around 30 minutes until golden.
Let the snakes cool on the baking sheet and when cold, sprinkle with icing sugar.

Very rich and perfect with coffee or desert wine. Or both.


Peter Newman-Legros said...

Look and sounds delicious. Not inexpensive to buy and not cheap to make I warrant with SO much ground almond.... But what a lovely fuzzy warm feeling when someone actually thinks they could not be home-made. Weird kind of compliment really.....

Xochitl said...

I can vouch for the deliciousness of these. I am always ready for a piece of Middle Eastern pastry but The Boy isn't so keen. But he managed to wolf down quite a few of these.

Helen said...

mmmm they were the first thing I made of that Claduia Roden book and are now my sweet treat staple.

I sometimes do though slack off from making the big snake you get if you pleat the filo together as she describes in the book and make them into little cigars.

I also make one with ground pistachios and rose water - very tasty too. I also often mince up some dates soaked in orange blossom water and add them to the mixture when I make an almond snake. love it.

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