Last Updated: 2022-03-04
6 SERVINGS MODERATE 740 CAL ENTRÉE 90 MIN (30 MIN PREP + 60 MIN COOK TIME)
Moroccan cuisine has a huge variety of dishes. Unfortunately, though, most restaurants, especially in tourist areas, usually only offer 3 or 4 varieties of tagine, cous cous and skewers.
I don’t blame the managers. That’s what’s on their menu because that’s what people ask for, and people ask for those items because it’s what they’re used to seeing on the menus. It’s one of those vicious cycles that can plague tourism.
So, every time you go to a restaurant daring enough to offer something outside of the normal fare, make sure that’s what you order. You won’t regret it.
One of the first joys that following this rule of thumb gave me was discovering seffa, a sweet and exotic main course I’m sure your guests will enjoy.
Let’s get started!
500g medium grain couscous
100g raisins (sultana raisins if possible)
1 tablespoon of butter
3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of milk
¼ cup of water
1 boneless chicken (freerange is better)
3 medium sized onions
2 teaspoons of ginger powder
2 tablespoons of turmeric powder
1 teaspoon of black pepper
3 tablespoons of butter
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Water, roughly 35 oz. (1 liter)
150g of finely chopped roasted almonds or other nut
1 Start with the raisins and the chicken, as they need to rest for a while after cooking. Take advantage of the time later to make the couscous. Let the raisins rest in water for at least an hour (the longer the better).
2 For the chicken, I recommend buying one that is already boned and chopped so that the meat is much softer. Add it to a pot along with the oil, the onion (julienned), the turmeric, the pepper , ginger and salt. Put it on medium heat and stir constantly to mix everything well. Add the butter and stir again until it dissolves.
3 Cover it and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Then, pour water to cover the ingredients, cover again and simmer on low heat so that most of the water evaporates (it will take approximately 45 minutes). Set aside.
4 The best way to make couscous is in a steamer pot, but I’ll explain how to do it with utensils that everyone has in their kitchen. Put all the semolina in a bowl, then add oil and salt to it. Carefully break it up by hand to leave it as loose as possible. The best way to make couscous is in a steamer pot, but I’ll explain how to do it with utensils that everyone has in their kitchen.
5 Add the first cup of milk, little by little to ensure the best texture. Continue stirring until well integrated and let stand for 10 minutes. Then, stir again and repeat (cup of milk, stir and rest).
6 Add the powdered sugar, the butter and very hot water (boil the water first in a saucepan, then melt the sugar and butter into the water so there are no lumps). Stir everything with a fork until it’s homogenous. Take the raisins out of the water and add them. Let rest for 10 minutes, if possible on a tray so that it cools faster and avoids caking.
7 Plate and serve the couscous in a volcano shape (leaving a hole in the middle), place the chicken in the center and cover everything with more couscous. Top with cinnamon and almond, then sprinkle confectioners sugar.
Some Observations and Interesting Points
There are a kaleidoscope of variations on this reflined, slightly sweet dish. You can also substitute noodles or even rice as the main ingredient. Noodle seffa is commonly used as a main dish. The couscous-based version is usually offered at weddings between courses as a palate cleanser.
When it includes meat, such as our chicken for example, it’s called seffa “medfouna”, meaning “buried” since the rest of the ingredients are buried in the noodles.
To make the simplest possible seffa just use this recipe excluding the chicken (steps 1, 2 and 3), although I personally feel the contrast between sweet and salty that the chicken gives raises this dish to a higher level. Interestingly, despite the majority of Moroccan citizens preferring seffa medfouna, both options have historically been equally successful. The popularity of the meatless version is likely due to the influence of Jewish communities, since religion forbids them to mix meat and dairy products in the same dish.
Instead of frying the almonds, some people prefer to chop them and mix them with sugar and cinnamon, creating an intermediate layer just after the chicken.
Adding more sugar to the recipe in the couscous or as decoration is an option. Although, so much sweetness might throw off the balance we’re trying to strike with the salty elements of the dish. As with the previous observations, it’s a matter of finding the right balance that best suits your palate.
One final warning: this dish seems light and fluffy at first, and it’s flavorful so it’s easy to overindulge. The first time I made it, my partner went for seconds and thirds but after it settled he had a two-hour food coma. You’ve been duly warned!
Much love to all and see you in the next post!
If you want to learn more check out our page on Moroccan cuisine.