Hey all! Hope you’re ready for your first Moroccan food recipe, because we finally got around to testing one out! I know we’ve been talking about posting some for months now, but it proved surprisingly difficult to come up with a decent recipe to post for a number of reasons. The biggest issue was translating a traditional Moroccan recipe into something that makes sense to Americans, and that includes more than just a language translation. Here is a rough approximation of Mama Naima’s instructions to us on making harsha:
- “Start with this” *shows me bowl half-filled with mysterious grain*
- “Add a little salt, a little sugar, and this” *”this” being a little packet of white powder*
- “Add oil, and then add water” *this basically meant me adding things while she watched me like a hawk so she could tell me when to stop*
- Then we’d go through the process of cooking it, which I never fully did, mostly because Naima made huge harshas and flipping them involved some serious skill.
Never mind the fact that these ingredients basically describe a million different kinds of baked goods, but it took me awhile to even figure out what they were. The little packet was identified easily enough as baking powder, but the mysterious grain was harder. I’d always assumed it was cornmeal, and a couple days ago I went over to the self-serve grain section at the store across the street to find some. I picked up the yellowest, cornmealiest looking grain I could find and used that in my first attempt. Naturally, it was not the right kind of grain. It was edible enough, but it was definitely not harsha! In true Peace Corps style, we ate the whole thing anyway, but we still don’t know exactly what it was….
After that debacle, I asked one of my students for help and learned that the grain I needed is called smida, and it’s actually semolina, not cornmeal. For my second attempt I stopped by a different store and had the owner help me get some semolina (this is a good lesson for me – asking for help is a good thing!). I headed home to make some harsha, and a couple attempts later… here you go!
Harsha (Moroccan Semolina Pancake)
Makes one pancake (approx. 8 in. diameter). Serves 2 – 3. Click to download recipe (no pictures)
1 c semolina (you may be able to substitute cornmeal but I’m not able to test that)
1 t salt
1 t white sugar
1 t baking powder
3 T olive oil
½ C water
Coat a frying pan with a little bit of oil and heat on medium. Sprinkle the pan with semolina and plop the mixture into the center of the pan (the neater you keep it in this step, the easier it is to give it a good shape).
Gradually pat it down, starting from the center and moving outwards, and sprinkling with more semolina as you go. It should be about half an inch thick when you’re done, but you want to pat it down slowly to keep it from tearing apart in the middle. You can neaten the edges with a spoon if you like.
Cook on one side for about 5 minutes, or until the bottom is starting to look solid. To flip it, I turn the harsha onto a plate and slide it back into the pan. Cook for about another 5 minutes, shaking the pan lightly every so often to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Once the bottom is cooked through, you’re done!
Moroccans eat it during cascroot (afternoon teatime), usually spread with jam or laughing cow cheese, or dipped in honey or olive oil, but we also like to eat it for breakfast. I like to cut a slice in half, spread with cheese and honey, and make a little harsha sandwich. Enjoy!