On Fridays, the majority of homes in Morocco serve couscous after afternoon (dhuhr) prayers. But some foods during the month of Ramadan are just as important as the famed Friday couscous.
Rabat – With Ramadan already here, and affecting everyday life in Morocco, Moroccans, especially women, are mobilizing to prepare delicious foods everyday to treat themselves and their families after a long fasting day. Two of the most common and special foods that make Ramadan a unique event at every home across Morocco are “chebakia” and “sellou.”
While the holy month brings believers closer to God, it is also a special event that brings families together.
One of the most common traditions during Ramadan in Morocco is inviting families over for iftar, the breaking of the fast, when the sun goes down and the muezzin issues the call to prayer, inviting Muslim Moroccans to perform the prayers.
After breaking the fast with a glass of water or milk and one date or three, men and women head to the nearest mosques to perform the sunset (maghreb) prayers. Some families choose to perform the prayer at home, while others feel it necessary to perform it at a mosque.
Following prayers, men and women come home to find a table filled with various good foods.
Many Moroccan families embellish their tables with the famous chebakia, also called mkehrka, and the grainy and crispy sfouf, also called sellou.
Moroccan chebakia, the magic pastries
Chebakia is one of the most highly demanded pastries during the month of Ramadan. Uniquely shaped like flowers, the pastry is usually served with the famous flavorful harira soup, which is made of chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes and lots of spices.
If they do not make it at home, Moroccans head to traditional souks where small shops adorn their stores with the pastry.
Tasting the flower-shaped pastry is like experiencing multiple emotions at once as the chebakia’s sesame seeds, butter, cinamon, blossom water, saffron, honey, and vinegar hit the palate.
Moroccans mix flour with salt, melted butter, vegetable oil, a pinch of cinnamon, orange blossom water, baking powder, and a pinch of saffron soaked in the orange blossom to make the dough.
The paste then rests, ideally for 15 minutes or more, before the pastry-maker can start shaping it into a flower.
Today, Moroccans can use a machine to roll the dough flat. However, some Moroccans still use a wooden rolling pin to roll out the dough, ready for the wanted design.
When the dough is flat, pastry makers use a cutting wheel to make 4 strips. They then shape the dough with their fingers into a flower.
Once finished with shaping the dough, the pastry makers fry the pastries in a large pot filled with hot vegetable oil. The sweet little chebakia flowers should be removed from the oil when they get a sandy color.
The next step is to pour cups of honey onto the chebakia to give them a brownish and sweet tone and add a bunch of fried sesame seeds for a healthy and rich decoration.
The nutty sellou
Moroccan sellou, commonly known as sfouf, is another favorite of Moroccans during Ramadan.
Sellou is a rich food full of protein, such as almond and sesame seeds.
The sweet product can be either served with Moroccan mint tea or milk.
While some like it sweeter, others prefer sellou to be a healthy rich snack to fill their stomach after a long day of fasting. The recipe consists of flour, raw almonds, sesame seeds, cinamon, powdered sugar, melted butter, vegetable oil, and finally honey for a sweet taste.
In a pot, cooks will slowly melt butter. In another container, cooks mix all dry ingredients: Browned flour, powdered sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, ground mastic gum, and salt.
Cooks then add both whole and ground sesame, ground fried almonds, and crushed almonds to the dry ingredients to give it a crispy texture.
Finally, Moroccans add in the melted butter, shape the pastry, and it is ready to eat.
Sellou is also a traditional food during childbirth ceremonies. While serving guests sellou, new mothers also eat it because of its calories and nutrients that help restore energy after delivering.
Sellou is also commonly served during Eids and weddings.
In addition to sellou and chebakia, Moroccans also adorn their tables with baghrir (a Moroccan pancake) and msemen, a flat buttery bread served with tea.