Hergma comes with chickpeas and wheat kernel or white beans. It may also have raisins/sultanas or figs for an even stickier version. The best hergma is slow-cooked overnight, in ashes or very low heat in a clay recipient called Tanjia (a jar-looking clay recipient used to transport oil in Roman times).
The basic spices for a standard hergma are ground ginger, ground pepper, sweet paprika, turmeric and saffron. The additions (depending on the type of hergma cooked) are cumin, cinnamon, Ras El Hanout. Coriander and parsley are also optional. Those are decided based on the topping accompanying the dish.
|Homemade hergma with chickpeas and wheat kernels|
Hergma is also a cousin to the centuries old Moroccan Sephardic dish called Dafina or Skhina, prepared for Shabbat.
There are many variations to this dish but this is how I like it, simple, slow-cooked, not overly spiced and never on the sweet side.
|Hergma is part of the Moroccan street-food list of things to try|
In Modern Moroccan homes, pressure cooker are shortening the time to cook this scrumptious hergma dish of calf trotters. We pre-soak the chickpeas and wheat to speed up the cooking process. However, should you want to make it the old ways, do not pre-soak anything. After 6 hours of cooking, chickpeas and trotters will have plenty of time to come together nicely.
We prefer to use calf trotters rather than lamb because there is not much to eat in a lamb trotter whereas calf trotters are richer and highly glutinous.
You need a cheesecloth to cook the wheat kernels and a pressure cooker to make this dish. You could also use a dutch oven if you choose to slow-cook it in an oven for longer hours.
Hergma dish needs to be reduced and serve hot to warm. The sauce is usually thick and your fingers might get sticky. It's highly advised that a hot tea is served after it.
Even if you are not into trotters, you need to give the sauce and wheat a try!
Serves 4 to 6
Prep: 10 min - Cooking: 1 1/2 hour (pressure cooker) to 6 hours (slow cooked)
Main hergma stew
- 2 calf trotters (about 1.4 kg), preferably the ones form the front, cut into 3 each and washed thoroughly
- 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
- 3- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 tsp of turmeric
- 1 tsp of ground pepper
- A good pinch of saffron thread
- 2 tbsps of sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp of ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp of cayenne (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 4 tbsps of olive oil
- About 2 l of water
- 250 g of chickpeas, presoaked overnight
- 250 g of wheat kernels, presoaked for a couple of hours
|Calf trotters/feet, sold in a local market, Butchers burn the hair |
for a few seconds on direct fire then scrub the trotters and sell them ready to use.
In the pressure cooker or a Dutch oven/crockpot, add 1 cup of water, the spices except the cayenne and paprika, garlic and the calf trotters. Stir and place on a medium heat for 10 minutes.
Then add enough water to cover the calf trotters and cover/lock. Cook on medium heat for about 1 hour (pressure cooker) or more if you are using a slow-cooking method. The trotters should be almost cooked before you add the other ingredients. If they're young and cook fast, fish them out and keep them covered.
Add the cayenne and paprika to the sauce and stir.
Place the washed wheat kernels in a cheesecloth and tie it up. Place it in the sauce along with the chickpeas. In case you see the level of liquid very low add more to cover the ingredients added.
Cover loose and cook for another 30 min or until the chickpeas are tender and trotters are easily falling of the bones. The sauce should be thick and reduced.
In a warm serving dish, place the trotters, followed by the chickpeas, then the sauce and finally top with wheat kernels.
Always serve warm. Should you have leftovers and want to reheat them, add a bit of water to loosen the sauce.