I have just returned from a trip to the Medina of Fes. I was enchanted by the beauty of local art craft and lifestyle and have come back fully inspired for new recipes! Fes is known as the cultural and spiritual center of Morocco, in particular thanks to the holy musics festival and the sufi music festival organized there each year. But I believe Fes is more than that...
If I had to do the exercise Elizabeth Gilbert does in Eat, pray, love - which consists in finding a word that perfectly describes the essence of a city (for her, the key word for Rome would be « sex », and that for New York would be « accomplish ») - I would say that the key word for Fes is « tradition ». In fact, a short day immersion in the old medina Fes al-Bali draws you in an ancestral lifestyle experience. It is as if its ramparts and structure had allowed it to preserve its customs and authenticity. Of course, the inhabitants have electricity, running water and wifi. But people and goods still move in the old-fashioned way (walk or donkeys) and the medina’s secular activities (pottery, tannery, copperware) have survived technical progress.
There, life follows another rhythm, punctuated by the calls to prayer, the tea one drinks in a shop, the fresh donuts bought from the merchant sfenji at 10 am for the second breakfast of the day… People take time to eat and cook, and the way they host and serve meals follows a certain art of living and a vision of beauty.
A must for cuisine lovers is the ballad in the main food market, the Rcif Souk. The region’s products are excellent and the stalls of vegetables, fruits, dates and spices captivate the visitor. I passed through a little shop where different kinds of pastry sheets are sold. Among them, the famous pastilla sheet (also called “brick sheet”). Here a young woman - an expert in making these extra-thin “pancakes” - makes them in front of you. These sheets are also used to bake small pastries that remind me of a childhood taste, called briwats.
Briwats in Arabic means “little envelops”. These little triangle shaped “feuilletés” can be served either as salted appetizers or as delicate sweets. Their shape might remind you of the Indian samosas but they are much smaller, and the pastilla sheet they are made of is different from the pastry used in samosas. Made with wheat flour, it is called warqa, which literally means “paper sheet” in allusion to its thinness. Once baked, it turns delightfully crispy. The pastry itself is quite difficult to make at home. But one can easily purchase brick pastry available in stores and use it instead.
The following recipe is a sweet one, derived from a classic pastry recipe with almonds and honey. I re-arranged it to avoid frying the almonds or the pastry itself. The result is lighter and as delicious as the traditional one. It is excellent for teatime, served with a mint tea.
Crispy Little Envelops with Almonds - 'Briwats'
Makes 30 small Briwats
10 brick pastry sheets
2 cups / 250 g shelled almonds
1/3 cup / 70 g brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp orange blossom water
5 cardamom seeds
For the topping
7 tbsp honey
2 tbsp orange blossom water
½ cup / 50 g sesame seeds
Mix the almonds with the sugar in a bowl. Grind them together in a food processor. Doing this, avoid overfilling it. If necessary, grind them in batches. The result should do be a kind of stuffing.
Heat the cardamom seeds by browning them in a pan for 5 minutes to release the essence of the seed. (No oil is needed). Then grind them in a mortar.
Pour the almonds/sugar mix in a bowl; add cinnamon, orange blossom water and cardamom. Combine with hands.
Arrange the brick sheets on a clean bench. If they are big enough like in the pictures, you can cut them in 3 pieces of 3 inches / 8 cm wide. To form a briwat, you need to put a small quantity of stuffing, and fold the pastry in a triangular way. Have a look to the pictures below. When the briwats are ready, bake them in the oven during 15 minutes (180°C / 350°F). They should seem crispy and golden.
Heat the honey on medium flame in a saucepan. Add the orange blossom water. Depending on the consistency you wish to obtain, you can use a greater or smaller quantity of orange blossom water. When hot, keep the saucepan on a light flame, and dip the briwats in batches in it. Keep each briwat approximately 30 seconds in the topping. As soon as removed from the topping, put the briwats on a plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve cool.
Hi there! I'm Majda.
Foodie, yogini, life lover!
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