I had a 20% off borders voucher last week so I spent some time looking at the shelves to decide what I wanted and after comparing many Moroccan cookbooks I eventually decided on Claudia Roden’s Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon (I have linked to amazon.co.uk as it is the version I have, look at that pretty cover, it is not released in the USA until October, 11mths after it was released everywhere else round the world). This book is gorgeous, I have only really had a good look at the Moroccan section but I have already planned future meals.

Helen's Birthday Snake

A Moroccan pastry filled with almond paste and coiled into a snake shape which is what gives it it’s name (m’hencha is snake, I have also seen this called M’hanncha so I guess it is just variations of the word).

Since this recipe can be scaled very easily and depending on what you are making it for you may only want a small snake or perhaps you will want a large snake that could feed a hoard. The recipe in the book called for 1.5kg ground almonds to serve 30-40.

1.5 parts ground almonds/almond meal
1 part sugar (caster is recommended but I just used plain)
1 tsp or so ground cinnamon
2 tblsp rose water (orange blossom is called for but I only have rosewater at home)
few drops almond essence (optional)
I only used 1 tblsp rosewater and then used some water and a bit of butter to form it into a paste.

filo sheets
1 egg beaten
melted butter

Preheat oven to 170°C and line a baking tray with al-foil.
Mix together the dry filling ingredients and gradually mix in the rosewater to form a paste. If it is dry, mix in a little bit of butter and water.
Lay down a filo sheet with the long side facing you and brush with melted butter. Pick up a small lump of the paste and in your hands roll into a snake that is about 2cm in diameter. Place this down on the filo sheet about 2cm in from the bottom and the edge, continue doing this till you have filled the length of the filo sheet, butting together each snake so you have no gaps and leaving about 2cm at the other end as well.
Roll the filo sheet and place on the baking tray. Carefully and gently curve the roll into a coil. The filo needs to be curved gently so not to tear.
Continue with more sheets until the paste has been used up, each time butting the ends of the rolls together to continue the coil. Brush the top of the snake with the egg and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden.
You could sprinkle the top with some flaked almonds before putting it in the oven.
Serve cold cut into wedges like a cake or break off bits of the coil.

All in all it was and still is very very nice πŸ™‚

2 Replies to “M’Hencha”

  1. Ya know, there is a dutch pastry just like this that we have every year when we celebrate Sinterklaas Eve but I can’t think of the name of it! Actually, now that I think of it, I think it’s what the Dutch Letters are made of- they’re pastries in the shape of letters and J is the universal letter but if you get another letter, you would get the letter of your name. That was a long story to tell you it sounds and looks just like Dutch letter and those are YUMMY! πŸ™‚

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