Citizens! The holiday of Maimouna was just celebrated in both Morocco and Israel – it is not well-known to most Jews of European descent unless they know a Moroccan or have lived in Israel, where it has become a rather big deal for the entire country.
The origin of the holiday is unclear, though some say Maimouna is derived from the Arabic word for wealth and good fortune (literally “protected by God,” ma’amoun). Since Passover (which just ended) is the beginning of the new agricultural year, it is a time to pray for plentiful crops, which are themselves symbolic of general prosperity.
Maimouna is celebrated with family, friends, and guests in each Moroccan-Jewish household, which reflects the themes of friendship, community, and hospitality. People in each household will wear expensive clothing and also visit their relatives and friends’ homes, going from household to household and greeting each other with a traditional saying: “Be Prosperous and Lucky”.
This seemed an opportune time to introduce the fabulous cuisine of Morocco to TFD – few regions of the world have produced so elegant and diverse a cuisine, using a multitude of spices and techniques to bring their food to the very pinnacle of gastronomy. The amazing Paula Wolfert has written a number of books on Moroccan cuisine – all of which are definitive in my humble opinion and worth purchasing on Amazon.
Perhaps the summit of Moroccan dishes is Bastilla, a traditional Moroccan dish that is an elaborate meat pie traditionally made of squab (pigeon). As squabs are often hard to get, shredded chicken is more often used today – though I personally love it made with squab!
Bastilla is a pie which combines sweet and salty flavors; a combination of crisp layers of the crepe-like warqa dough (a thinner cousin of phyllo dough) wrapping savory meat slow-cooked in broth and spices and shredded, scrambled eggs and finally topped with a crunchy layer of toasted and ground almonds, spices, and sugar.
This combination of flavors may sound odd to a Western palate, but trust me – it is delicious and well-worth trying, Citizens! I am confident that my version of this recipe will meet with your approval – I’ve tried to keep it as traditional as possible, but I have substituted clarified butter for smen – a salted fermented butter that is not easily found outside of Morocco. Ms. Wolfert does include a recipe on how to make it in “The Food of Morocco”.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
The Hirshon Moroccan Bastilla - بسطيلة
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