This is one of those recipes that you don’t think you’ll ever even bother attempting, let alone getting spot on. When I wrote my post on Halloween it seemed to be a good idea, but I immediately started panicking about having to actually make it now I’d told the world I was going to. I admit that I have a/ spent a week worrying about it, b/ spent quite a long time in the kitchen just staring at my ingredients, whilst thinking of different ways of attempting this thing but, finally, c/ just going for it and realising I’ve been daft as it really is quite straight forward.
M’hencha means snake (the dish looks like a coiled up snake), and is thought to originate from the North African Berber people (they live in the Atlas mountains of Morocco). Moroccan desserts are exceptionally sweet even by my sweet-toothed standards (a bit like my squash addiction, they seem to have icing sugar addiction). This is by no means traditional, but really delicious served with vanilla ice cream (although, if I ever get an ice cream maker I think I’m going to experiment with some more traditionally North African flavours; rose or orange blossom maybe).
To make a m’hencha to share between 3 or 4 (depending on whether or not you’re going to accompany it with ice cream, yoghurt or anything else).
Filo pastry – 4 sheets
Apples – 4 (I used Royal Gala)
Ground cinnamon – 1 ½ teaspoons
Not from concentrate apple juice – 200ml
Ground almonds – 75g
Mini fudge chunks* – 75g
Melted butter – not much, a large knob just for brushing over the pastry to make it golden
Mini marshmallows* – a handful
Apple juice – a few splashes (it depends on how juicy your apples are; you’re aiming for a little thicker than apple sauce in consistency).
*You can get these in the baking aisle at the supermarket.
I hope this makes sense to you all; I really tried to think how best to explain (I hope the pictures might help too).
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- Peel, core and finely chop your apples.
- Place the apples, a third of your fudge chunks, the cinnamon and apple juice in a pan, and cook through until the apples have softened (you don’t want apple sauce, but nearly).
- Add your ground almonds (it should become a thick, lumpy paste).
- Dust your work surface with icing sugar.
- Imagine you sheets of filo are sheets of A4 paper. Take 2 sheets (one on top of the other) and place on the worksurface (landscape orientation).
- Next, take the other 2 sheets of pastry, and place next to the first 2, but overlap them by a couple of inches so that you have a large rectangle – like so:
- Brush the whole pastry rectangle with melted butter.
- Sprinkle the remaining fudge chunks along the length of the long edge nearest to you.
- Make a long line (along the top of your fudge chunks) with the apple paste – like so:
- Very carefully and gently, roll your pastry around the apple paste to make a very long snake, and fold the ends up – like so:
- Being very careful again, roll your ‘snake’ into a coil, and then slide onto a baking sheet – like so:
- Brush with melted butter, and make a spiral on top of it with the marshmallows – like so:
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. It should be crisp and golden on the outside and soft on the inside.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.
The Atlas mountains where the Berber people live.
(Taken February 20th 2010, hence it being a bit cloudy!)