M’hanncha, or the Moroccan snake

Food & drink
Jamie Oliver’s M’hanncha, or the Moroccan Snake

There are times when I hit a blogging brick wall, where there’s nothing left to say, or where the ideas and half-posts won’t form themselves properly.

That happened this weekend, and after binning the third draft of something attempting to articulate what I think of minimum alcohol pricing (short answer: probably good, some reservations, could be collateral damage, but worth it. I’ll come back to that one), I decided that the best thing to do would be to actually cook something.

This Moroccan dessert had a little green Post-It note marking the page, so it must have caught my eye at some point, probably marked out for times such as this.  Quick, made with easily available ingredients, obviously photogenic – perfect Emergency Post fodder.

I can’t be the only one who thinks like this, so don’t judge me.

Anyway, m’hanncha, also known as ‘snake pie’ for fairly obvious reasons.  It’s like a big Cumberland sausage made with filo pastry and filled with almond and pistachio.

Cream together 375g each of butter and icing sugar until thoroughly combined, then carefully beat in three large eggs, one at a time.  I nearly chucked everything away at this point, but persevering with the gentle mixing started to bring the rather unpromising mess together into a vaguely loose textured mixture that perked up enormously when I added 375g of ground almonds.

Carry on mixing gently, and add four tablespoons of rose water, a heaped tablespoon of plain flour and the zest of a lemon and an orange.  As a last flourish, mix in 50g of roughly crushed pistachio nuts.

Moroccan hmanncha by Jamie Oliver 1

Next, the assembly line.

Lay out nine sheets of filo pastry on a clean surface, short side towards the edge, so that they overlap by about four or five centimetres.  Keep an extra sheet in reserve for running repairs.

Carefully spoon the almond mixture along the length of the pastry, about eight or ten centimetres from the bottom edge, and leaving at least ten centimetres clear at either end. Fold the ends over the filling, then lift the bottom edge over until the almond paste is completely encased.  Now just roll the pastry away from you to form a big Moroccan cigar, keeping the pastry tucked in nice and tightly, so that the roll is neat and tidy.

When everything is rolled up, take one end and very carefully start to coil the roll up.  Be very gentle – the pastry is delicate and will split.  When it does, hold your nerve and patch up the gap with some more filo and maybe some melted butter as glue.

Slide the coiled pastry onto a large baking tray, which is much easier said than done.  My pizza peel helped.

Bake for forty to forty-five minutes in an oven pre-heated to 180c, or until the pastry is a rich golden colour.  The pastry may burst around the edges a little in the oven…if it does, just cut away the overflowing filling with a sharp knife when the cake comes out of the oven.

Allow to cool a little, dust liberally with icing sugar and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie Does…

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