“Foodie Fridays” are dedicated to my two great loves: food and Fridays. In these posts, I’ll introduce you to some of my favorite varieties of Moroccan and North African cuisine. This particular post is part of my Ramadan Edition, which covers dishes that are common during the month of Ramadan.
Muslims worldwide observe Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, by fasting from sunrise to sunset in commemoration of the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Upon the arrival of sunset, families gather together to break fast with a meal called Iftar, which means “breakfast” in Arabic. In Morocco, a wide variety of dishes are offered at Iftar—some of which only seem to pop up during Ramadan—and one of those dishes is known as sfouf.
Sfouf (also called selou of zmita) is an unbaked Moroccan dessert comprised of toasted sesame seeds, fried almonds, and flour that has been browned in the oven. Sfouf is a bit labor-intensive, so it’s not extremely common throughout the year. However, due to its high energy content, it can be found served after childbirth or during Eid al-Fitr. Regardless of its high maintenance, sfouf is extremely nutty, tasty, and definitely worth the effort if you’re looking to enjoy a genuine Moroccan treat.
1 kg un-hulled golden sesame seeds
1 kg almonds
1 kg flour
1/4 kg powdered sugar
4 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground anise
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mastic or gum Arabic
1/2 kg butter
Note: This recipe makes a lot of sfouf. Reduce by half if you don’t want to drown in the stuff.
- Clean and toast the sesame seeds several days before you plan to make the sfouf.
- Wash the sesame seeds with water, then spread them out on a large baking pan to dry for a couple days.
- When the seeds are sufficiently dry, go through them, making sure to remove any sticks or debris that didn’t rinse away.
- In small batches, spread the seeds in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
- Toast the seeds on 400° F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crunchy. Alternatively, you can toast the seeds in batches on a skillet over medium-low heat while stirring constantly.
- After the seeds have cooled, store in a covered container.
- Brown the flour. This step can be done up to two weeks before making the sfouf.
- Place the flour in a large baking pan and bake at 400° F for 30 minutes, making sure to stir every five minutes to prevent burning.
- Once golden brown, remove the flour from heat and sift several times to remove clumps.
- Cover and store.
- Skin and fry the almonds.
- Blanch whole almonds in boiling water for two minutes.
- Drain the water and skin the almonds while they’re still warm.
- Spread the almonds out on a towel to dry.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large pan over medium heat, and fry the almonds in batches, stirring constantly. This process should take 5 to 10 minutes, and the almonds should look golden brown.
- Drain and cool.
One Day Before:
- Clarify the butter.
- Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot.
- Once foam forms at the surface, carefully skim off the foam and discard it.
- Place the pot in the fridge overnight.
- In the morning, the butter will be hard. Pour off the milk solids and place the clarified butter back in the fridge.
- Melt the clarified butter and set it aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the browned flour, powdered sugar, spices, and salt through a sieve. Discard any remaining clumps of brown flour.
- Gently toss the sieved mixture with your hands.
- Finely grind the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor until they resemble a paste.
- Add the ground sesame seeds to the flour mixture.
- Grind one half of the fried almonds into a paste, then grind the other half, making sure to leave it a little chunkier than the first.
- Add the almonds to the flour mixture and gently toss everything together.
- Work in enough of the butter to form a slightly moistened mixture that’s easy to pack into a ball.
- Knead the sfouf for a couple minutes to make certain that everything is sufficiently mixed.
- Transfer the sfouf to a container, allowing it to cool before covering.
- Sfouf has a long shelf life, and stays good for up to two months in a well-sealed container. Frozen sfouf stays good for up to six months!
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Enjoy, and Ramadan Mubarak!