The filling in ours is made not just with nuts, but also with sweet dried fruit. And because we’ve rolled ours nice and small, they’re easier to make.
At Moroccan weddings it’s common for a metre-long m’hancha (which means ‘coiled snake’) to be served as the final flourish to the celebratory meal.
- 150 g (5½ oz) pitted dates
- 150 g (5½ oz) dried figs
- 150 g (5½ oz) dried apricots
- 150 g (5½ oz) dried cranberries
- 100 g (3½ oz/⅔ cup) salted, roasted almonds
- 100 g (3½ oz/1 cup) walnuts
- 2–3 tbsp walnut oil
- 8–12 large sheets of filo pastry (see Note)
- 250 g (9 oz/1 cup) butter, melted
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Roughly chop the dried fruit, then transfer to a food processor, add the nuts and blitz to a coarse paste, gradually adding enough walnut oil to bring the mixture together. Using your hands, roll the filling mixture into 8–12 long sausage shapes (depending on how many filo sheets you have), each about 2-cm (½ in) thick.
- Work with one sheet of filo pastry at a time, keeping the rest covered with a clean, damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Take one sheet of filo and place it onto a clean work surface, with the longest side facing you. Brush the filo generously with some of the melted butter, then lay one length of filling about 2 cm (½ in) from the long edge of the pastry. Carefully roll the filo over the filling to make a long, thin roll; make sure that the filling stays inside. Gently lift the pastry roll and place it in the middle of the prepared baking tray. Roll it into a tight spiral, bending the pastry very carefully so that it doesn’t tear. Repeat the process with the remaining filo pastry sheets and filling.
- Brush each m’hancha with the beaten egg yolk. Mix the cinnamon with the sugar and sprinkle it over the top.
- Bake the m’hancha for about 15 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Set aside to cool before eating, or serve immediately. M’hancha are delicious on their own, but are even better served with unsweetened whipped cream, mascarpone, creamy Greek-style yoghurt or strong Moroccan mint tea.
• Seek out filo that's in a roll and work with it from the fridge, not the freezer. The best filo is found in Moroccan or Turkish delicatessens.
Recipe and images from Under the Mediterranean Sun by Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00.