Traditionally stuffed with nuts and soaked in orange water and honey, m’hancha is a delicate pastry that has the shape of a snake (it’s no wonder it actually translates to “snake pie” in Arabic). The usually sweet Moroccan dessert gets a savory twist with the addition of merguez, a spicy North African sausage made from a combination of lamb and beef, doused in harissa and sautéed with green olives and raisins. Don’t let length of directions or the coiling technique deter you from making this pastry and merguez recipe; it’s extremely easy. Brushing the pastry with butter makes it flexible and easy to twirl. Don’t sweat it if you can’t coil m’hancha like Jamie Oliver. You’re no pro, and phyllo dough is the perfect product for stitching up rips. Just patch and move on. At social gatherings, guests break pieces off the outermost part of the pastry and eat with their hands. Cut into slices for a prettier and neater presentation, and listen for that heavenly crunch.
1 pound merguez sausage, casing removed
3 tablespoons harissa
¼ cup pitted green olives, halved
¼ cup raisins
1 16-ounce box phyllo dough sheets
1 stick butter, melted
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°F. That is all.
Cook the merguez. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook for 3 minutes, crumbling with a wooden spoon. Add harissa, olives and raisins and continue cooking until sausage is browned. Cool.
All of the butter. Lay one sheet of phyllo flat and brush with melted butter, followed by another sheet of phyllo and more butter. Continue this until you’ve stacked 4 sheets of phyllo. Place about ¼ cup of the cooled merguez mixture across the edge closest to you. Carefully wrap the phyllo around the merguez and away from you. Brush the stuffed, rolled phyllo with butter and starting from one edge, carefully roll the phyllo like a snake coil.
Practice makes perfect. Continue this process until all of the merguez filling is used, connecting each stuffed phyllo roll to the last as you coil. Don’t worry if the phyllo rips, just use some of the extra phyllo dough and melted butter to patch the holes.
Bake the m’hancha. Place the m’hanncha in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for a couple of minutes before slicing it like a big ol' piece of apple pie.
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