Thursday, 8 May 2014

The yummy world of Moroccan Harcha galettes

Harcha in Moroccan means "rough". It is a sort of flatbread-galette that is a nation-favorite. It's part of our street-food repertoire. We love it so much that we have different versions of it.

Harcha is one of my favorite Moroccan recipe for breakafast or afternoon snacks. What is it exactly? I hesitate to put harcha in the bread category since we do not serve it with the stews or tagines. Would that be a biscuit? The reason why I'm thinking about this option is because I have the American biscuit with a scone texture/look and these are between bread and biscuits.

Mini plain harcha served with honey

In Algeria and Tunisia, Harcha comes under the name of kesra or Mtabga. Both come plain or can be stuffed with date paste, or spicy meat/vegetable mix. It's usually served as a snack. Kesra can be made with flour and not necessarely with semolina. Kesra in Morocco can also refer to batbout bread and hence not rough but rather soft and chewy.

For today, we'll stick to our Moroccan harcha which is only made with semolina.

To avoid any confusion regarding the calibre of the grain used, fine semolina flour a coarse flour pictured on the left while fine semolina (as opposed to medium) is pictured on the right: We use the flour for some Moroccan breads, Mlaouis and other recipes. We use the semolina for some Moroccan sweets and for harcha.

There is a basic recipe of Harcha the way it's done in most of the Moroccan houses:

1- It's made using fine or/and medium semolina wether this is coming from wheat, corn (gluten-free harcha) or barley (depending on the regions but mostly on what's available in the house). Do not try to make it with Couscous grains, it's just not the same thing.

2- The semolina is then worked with some fat content (vegetable or olive oil, melted butter or both). Working with our fingers, we try to coat each grain with this fat addition: we call this act to " Bessess" the semolina: Imagine yourself working a shortcrust dough or a crumble dough where you try to coat flour with butter. It's pretty much the same idea. Would you use a food processor for that? I never tried and I prefer to use my fingers for this job. We do not knead harcha dough; the best harchas are the ones where we can identify the grains of semolina and by kneading the dough we'll end up having a bad texture.

3- We bring this mix to a dough consistency (wether sloppy or slightly harder) by adding lukewarm water or milk or both. We flatten it anywhere between 5 to 10 mm.

4- We usually pan-fry it on a heavy-bottomed skillet or an old earthware pan (especially in our Moroccan countryside). Cooking harcha is best done over medium heat so the inside cooks properly.

My auntie at work, making one of the best Harchas in Morocco: it's from Hyayna neat Fes

Harcha's recipe has undergone some sort of evolution with the addition of baking powder or milk to the mix. This enhances the texture and enriches the taste.

Olive oil and fresh thyme harcha  served with white cheese and hard-boiled egg for my breakfast

The typical big harcha sold in some stalls back home can also have some flour and yeast and therefore the texture is different. The reason why it's done is because they want to keep it longer so when you buy a slice after 2 hours or more, it won't be hard.

My slice of harcha with some sort of wild mint along with my Semolina ghrouiba after a long walk in Fes' old streed 

We can make anything from harchas as big as a car wheel or mini harchas of 10 cm. The ones pan-fried can be 5 mm to 1 cm thick, but not more than that. The one baked can be 2 to 4 cm thick.


We can make sweet harchas, savoury or just plain, stuffed or not, baked or pan-fried.

Harcha is ideally served in the same couple of hours after it's made. We always serve it along with something to spread over: butter and honey, jam, soft cheese...We can warm it for a few second in a microwave if it's the same day it's been made; it will be still okay.

I like using it to make cheese and mortadella sandwich

You can turn harcha into a complete meal by filling it with a meat stuffing (before or after cooking it). It's so versatile that you will always find what to do with it!

Sweet baked harcha with orange blossom water

Some countryside recipes are just amazing and showcase different layers of flavors and textures by using cooked harcha as a base for R'fissa (usually made with msemmen or stale bread) or couscous by topping a finely crumbled and steamed pile of it with some traditional stews or just country farm butter.

Stuffed harchas with white cheese and olives

I invite you to follow me in this serie of Harcha recipes..I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do..


4 comments:

  1. My Fassi husband loves his harsha. LOVES harsha! Which was in part why harsha was the first Moroccan recipe which I mastered :) Plus a lot easier and quicker than msemen :)

    My mother-in-law taught me her version, which is simply delicious with just med/coarse semolina (smida dyal l harsha), vegetable oil, water and salt. Our favorite topping is Laughing Cow or Kiri cheese and sliced green olives. But now that I've seen your repertoire of harsha, I'm going to have to try a new version. I recently discovered nigella seeds, with which I made some savory fekkas -- just thinking about harsha with nigella makes my mouth water!

    Thank you for such thorough posts and yummy ideas! Tbarakalah!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I looooove harcha too! It's easy to master once you have in mind a trick or two. I also find it healthier than msemmen (beside the time it takes).

      In my previous post about harcha, I mentioned that the simplest and more authentic way of preparing harcha is exactly how your MIL explained. You will also find me using it as a bun to sandwich cold cuts and kirri (my favourite thing).

      Re nigella seeds, Turkish and Indians use it in their breads and pastries and I'm sure you will love the taste it brings to them

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  2. Do you have a recipe that is similar to the food stands? I sometimes wish to make harcha in advance to serv later in the day. Also any tips for keeping harcha from crumbling when youslice into to make a sandwich? This happens often.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Cali, thanks for stopping by!

      I reckon the food stands use durum flour in the mix as well (a bit of cheating), which is usually not a good idea and which is why the homemade version is much more appreciated.

      To keep harcha for a whole day, you do want to add yeast. Say for 500 to 750 g of semolina, add 1 tsp of instant dried yeast. You don't have to let it rise. Just give it 5 min then cook it in the pan.

      Let me know the outcome.

      Delete

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