Algerian Mahjouba | Tomato Sauce Stuffed Semolina Flatbread

Monday, August 15, 2016

MENA Cooking Club is back after two months of Summer break! I was so eager to know what would happen to the club after we were done with the last MENA country – Yemen. So now, we are going for a second round of cooking a dish from each of the MENA (Middle East North African) countries in alphabetical order.

Though I had joined MENA Cooking Club when it was time to cook Oman, I had started cooking a dish for GlobeCookingMad too through which I have already covered Algeria. And if you remember I had mentioned that there is so much to try from this land that I won’t be moving forward to the next country very soon. :-P

For the first country - Algeria, we were given these options:

  • Khobz Eddar
  • Chorba Beïda 
  • Mahjouba
Looking at the list I was sure what I would be making! Mahjouba! This is a typical Algerian street snack which are thick, flaky crepes made with semolina and which are usually stuffed with a tomato-based filling. The fillings can be jazzed up with minced meat and capsicums or anything that you love to stuff into the crepes. As I am on the road to weight loss, I avoided meat and served this as a tea time snack.

Algerian Mahjouba | Tomato Sauce Stuffed Semolina Flatbread

While I watched innumerable videos on how to make this, it all seemed too easy for me. Mix, knead, spread, stuff, close and roast! Similar to the making of muttabaq. But I was wrong! The first trial I messed up and I didn’t get to spread the dough as easy as in the videos and they just turned out to be our Indian parathas! :p And F didn’t even realize that I had served a new dish!

This is result of my second attempt and there is still room for improvement. Hopefully will try again and update with more tips and tricks.

Two things will help you achieve Mahjouba at the first attempt - Do not be stingy in using oil and no rolling pins, please. 

I have also noticed that Mahjouba is made with and without Harrisa paste which is a blend of roasted red chilli pepper and spices. Honestly, I never looked for Harrisa in the supermarkets but I wanted to make Mahjouba with Harrisa paste so went ahead and made a small batch. For Indians, it doesn’t make any difference, you can just do with some red or green chillies and some spice powders that are always in our pantry. So Harrisa paste is not a mandate.

The secret to a perfect Mahjouba is all in the dough! If you have a machine to knead, good for ya! Else be prepared to knead the dough till your hands drop off the joints! :-D


Algerian Mahjouba | Tomato Sauce Stuffed Semolina Flatbread


Prepare the dough, then the sauce and then make the Mahjouba. This way the dough will get its resting period while you make the sauce.

I have adapted the recipe from UmmHamza's blog - Halal HomeCooking and The Taste of Algeria video.

Algerian Mahjouba | Tomato Sauce Stuffed Semolina Flatbread

INGREDIENTS:

For the Harrisa Paste: Optional
How to make Harrisa Paste - The Kitchn

For the Dough:
2 cups of fine semolina
Salt to taste
250 ml water warm water + more for sprinkling (this will depend on the quality of the semolina so add little by little)
Sunflower oil – for coating the surface, dough and while spreading the dough (keep a bowl of oil close to the work area)

For the Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoon tomato paste
2 medium tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 teaspoon Harissa paste (add gradually according to your taste)
½ teaspoon black pepper powder
½ teaspoon hot paprika powder
Salt to taste
A fistful of chopped coriander leaves to mix into the sauce at the end - optional


Algerian Mahjouba | Tomato Sauce Stuffed Semolina Flatbread


Algerian Mahjouba | Tomato Sauce Stuffed Semolina Flatbread


METHOD:

You can make the Harrisa paste a day ahead as it can be stored too.

For the Dough:
  1. On a large flat plate or surface, mix in the semolina and salt 
  2. Start adding warm water little by little until you can bring together all of the semolina into a dough
  3. Start kneading the dough using the lower part of the palm or with both your hands and keep sprinkling water every few minutes until the dough is non-sticky, stretchy and a big blob! Not like chapati dough.
  4. Keep kneading even after you “think” you have achieved the desired state. Your mind can fool you because your hands are hurting! 
  5. Grease a large tray with enough oil 
  6. Squeeze as many balls of dough between index and thumb and lay them on a flat plate with lot of space between each dough balls 
  7. Spread some oil on each dough ball and cover the plate with cling wrap
  8. Keep this to rest for minimum 30 minutes
For the Sauce:
  1. Heat a saucepan or pot or Kadai on medium flame and add olive oil
  2. Add in the finely chopped onions along with a dash of salt, sauté until translucent.
  3. Add the grated garlic, and tomato paste, let it cook for a minute
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes along with the spice powders and harrisa paste. 
  5. Cover and cook until the tomatoes are all soft. Do open and stir to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Add more oil or drops of water if the mixture is too dry.
  6. Taste test and adjust the spices and salt
  7. Switch off and add freshly chopped coriander leaves

Prepare Mahjouba
  1. Keep the tawa on low heat so it is ready by the time your first Mahjouba is ready to be cooked 
  2. Oil your hands and work surface very well 
  3. Take one dough ball and cover the rest. 
  4. Keep it on the oiled surface and start to gently pat it with your four fingers or palm while stretching it outwards. 
  5. Gently use both your hands to stretch dough all way around until transparent. You may end up with a few holes and that is totally okay. 
  6. Put a tablespoon or more of cooled sauce in the center of the sheet, and with the back of a spoon gently spread it out evenly. 
  7. Fold by carefully bringing the top side of the dough down over the sauce then fold the bottom side up. 
  8. Do the same with the right and left side so you get a square. 
  9. Now is the most difficult task. You can try and lift the Mahjouba and lay it on the hot pan OR if you have trouble, then choose to fold the Mahjouba on a large plate so you can topple the prepared square onto your hand and then onto the pan.
  10. Roast it both sides until cooked crisp and serve immediately!
Algerian Mahjouba | Tomato Sauce Stuffed Semolina Flatbread

I prepared these on Thursday and made a total of seven to eight mahjouba of similar size with this recipe. The three seen in these pics were the first set which I had for my lunch and I made the remaining around tea time when F was back from work. I ensured that he watched how I prepared so it amuses him as tastewise it is nothing new! :-P

Algerian Mahjouba is an ajooba! (wonder)

Now, check out what other members have cooked from Algeria!


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