Algeria has a wide variety of breads that reflect the diversity of Algerian food and the various cultures that influenced its cuisine , be it Berber/Amazigh…Andalusian, Othoman , French or Pied Noir….
In his book : Histoire de l’Espagne Musulmane: the emminent historian .E–Levi provencal descrived a typical Andalusian souk :….. »
» …..le journalier trouvait dans le bazar pour se sustenter, des boutiques de restaurateurs qui preparaient les aliments sous les yeux de la clientele…rotisseurs ( shawaa…) ou des fritures ( kalla’) debitaient ainsi chaque jour , force tetes de moutons, boulettes de viandes, saucisses fortemment relevees….poisson frit et brochettes de viande, de foie, de coeur de mouton, et de graisse, qu’ils faisaient rotir, griller ou frire .on trouvait egalement au souk des fabriquants de beignets frits dans l’huile ( isfanj)des tourtes au fromage blanc ( moudjabanat) de crepes au beurre ( moussamanat ) de gimblettes ( kaak) et mille autres friandises….. »
The study of this litterature, other encyclopedian texts , travellers and chronicals allow us to draw the conclusion that a great deal of every day Algerian dishes go back to the andalusian cuisine thanks to the muslim and jewish refugees who took North African shores as a second home after being chased from the Iberic Peninsular in the XVI century
Mssaman is probably one of the many examples of this influence and constitute an important part of traditional Algerian breakfast or afternoon treats .
Indeed, no thing beats the flaky , crispy multi-layered mssmen, eaten either savoury with tomato -onions mixture or sweet with honey and butter,
when stuffed either with the classical mixture of tomato, onions or otheir modern stuffing , they are called mahjouba or mhajeb…
here are some authentic mhadjebs from Biskra with the palm tree in the backgroud. LLLLLLLLove them! thanks for sharing Souhila!!!!!
PLAIN OR STUFFED M’SSEMENS
500g fine semoulina ( or half semoulina, half flour for beginners )
1 teaspoon of salt
oil or a mixture of oil and melted butter for layering and cooking
mix semoulina, salt and enough water to get a dough. knead thourouly for several minutes. divide the dough into balls. cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let to rest for few hours, or overnight. the more it rests, the easier it gets rolled. flatten each boll into a big round disc. lightly brush with oil. fold the disc towards the centre, brush again with oil, bring the opposite sides to the midle until you get a square shape. use an iron skillet to cook both sides of the m’ssemen. the whole process will result into a fluffy and crispy crepe.
NB: Traditionnaly, we use oil to flatten each ball , but if you are a beginner or from lazy type like « yours truly » you may use a rolling pin to flatten the dough. this technique also helps reduce the amount of oil needed to get a flat and big sheet.
The following are the steps of m’ssemens (plain) or mahjouba /mhadjeb ( stuffed) techniques with pictures gathered from my french blog and my friend kouky’s who kindly allowed me to use her pictures. ( Thanks, dear !)
For the non proffessionals, a rolling pin can be used to give an excellent and quick result. in no time you’ll see your dough ball getting bigger and thiner.
If you are aiming at making a plain m’ssemen, you can carry on oiling and folding you dough .serve with a mixture of butter and bee-honey and a good cup of hot mint tea
it you prefer the stuffed version, its time to prepare your favourites filling:
my children also like a nutella version:
on an iron skillet, cook the mssemens on both both sides
serve hot with mint tea, coffee, or cold drinks
Mssemens sheats can also be cooked unfolded then cut into strips to prepare various savoury and sweet dishes .
SAVORY VERSIONS :
Chakhchoukhat Biskra : is a ceremonial dish made with meat gravy and mssemens sheats and finds its root in the city of Biskra located in the south east of the country. Biskra is not only famous with its delicious and spicy cuisine but is also the birth place of deglet noor, one of the best date varieties in the world.
Here are some picture of chakhchoukat biskra making , lent to me by my friend souhila . click here to learn more about this dish and see the whole recipe
first the sheets of mssemens , also called ftir or rogag are prepared and steemed then served with a spicy gravy made with meat, some vegetables such as potato, dried apricots and some time raisins for a sweet and savoury version.
Here is my aunty ‘s delicious chakhchoukha , enjoyed last time we went back home.
Mssemen sheets can also be served with roasted meat instead of bread or rice,
here , kouky served it with boumfawar, a traditional steammed then roasted pieces of lamb:
SWEET VERSIONS :
Beside the savoury mssemen, there are numerous sweet varieties ,always present during happy events and served eitheir at the end of dinner or on their own with a glass of buttermilk .
among the most prominent sweet versions , we can cite the chaoui ziraoui, made with mssemens sheets, date paste as well as butter and honey.
Mchelouech is another famous sweet mssemens , typical of Constantine province and its neignouring towns. , the mssemens sheats are cooked , cut into strips, and served with a mixture of butter, honey and nuts.
I’m borrowing some of my friend kouky’s photos to illustrate the making of the dish .click here to see the detailed recipe
the sheet is cooked then rolled:
Hope I made you want prepare m’ssemens at home ):