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M'hannha - the snake (a Maroque recipe)

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This iconic Moroccan pastry is sweet, indulgent, and has a taste that just conjures up Morocco! It is a little fiddly, so leave yourself plenty of time.


250g ground almonds
175g icing sugar
1 egg, separated
a few drops of almond essence
1 sachet if gum arabic, ground to a powder (optional)
2 tbsp rose water
Up to 6 sheets of filo pastry, or 6 warka leaves if you can get them
4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
icing sugar and ground cinnamon, to decorate


1. Mix together the ground almonds, icing sugar, gum Arabic (if using), and add the egg white, almond essence and rosewater and mix together to form a thick paste. Divide the paste into about 6 balls. Lightly butter the inside of a 20cm loose bottomed cake or flan tin and set aside, heat the oven to 180C.

2. Dust the work top with icing sugar and roll the balls out into long sausage shapes, about the width of your finger or about 1.5 cm. Set these carefully aside.

3. Lay a sheet of filo on the clean work surface and brush with butter, lay another sheet of filo on top of the buttered sheet and brush the top sheet also with butter. Cover the rest of the filo with a damp cloth. If you are using warka you shouldn't need to butter the sheets.

4. Lay the almond sausages down the longest side of the filo about 2cm in from the edge. Fold the filo over the sausages and roll about a turn to form a pastry snake. Cut the pastry down the edge of the roll.

5. Take your first snake coil and, starting in the middle of the cake tin, coil the snake around itself reasonably tightly, gently teasing it into shape and limiting the amount of split on the pastry.

6. Return to the buttered filo and create another snake from the cut edge of the last, laying the almond paste about 2 cm from the edge again. Lay this snake from the end of the last, and coil outwards. Repeat the process until the cake tin is full. I got 3 snakes from a double sheet of filo and I needed 6 snakes to fill the tin.

7. Beat the egg yolk with a pinch of cinnamon and brush over the top, put the cake tin on a baking tray, as lots of oil comes out as you cook it. Bake in the 180C oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and crisp on top.

8. Remove the base of the tin and turn the snake upside down, return to the tin and put back in the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes, until the base is golden brown.

9. Remove from the oven and invert onto a cooling rack, dust with icing sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm cut into wedges.

Serves 10

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