At Moroccan weddings, a towering m’hancha (or rolled-up snake) is often served as the showpiece of the dinner table. We have tried the filling using nuts alone and also with sweet dried Mediterranean fruits. These m’hanchas are easy to make because we keep our rolled-up snakes to a modest size. These are delicious plain but also great with unsweetened clotted cream, mascarpone or creamy Turkish yogurt, as well as strong Moroccan mint tea.
5¼ ounces pitted dates
5¼ ounces dried figs
5¼ ounces dried apricots
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup salted roasted almonds
1 cup walnuts
2 to 3 tbsp walnut or almond oil
1 roll phyllo dough
½ cup butter, melted
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp sugar
Coarsely chop the dates, figs, apricots and cranberries, then grind them in a food processor together with the nuts until you get a chunky paste. If needed, add some nut oil to create a homogeneous paste.
Wrap the sheets of phyllo dough in a clean kitchen towel and remove one sheet at a time just when you are about to use it. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape the fruit nut paste into “fingers” about ¾-inch thick.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place a sheet of phyllo dough lengthwise in front of you on the counter. Generously brush with melted butter and place a “fruits-and-nuts finger” about ¾ inch from the edge. Making sure the filling stays inside, roll up the dough over the filling until you get a long thin roll. Carefully lift the first roll and place it at the centre of the baking sheet. Bend it into a tightly wound spiral. Bend it gently – otherwise the dough will rip. Repeat with the rest of the dough sheets and “fingers.”
Brush the m’hancha with some egg yolk. Mix the cinnamon with the sugar and sprinkle over the m’hancha. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Allow the m’hancha to cool before serving or eat while they’re still warm.
Serves 8 to 12.