19 Nov 2014

Top Two (2) Feel-Home Food for Ramadan in Morocco: Sellou or Slilo, a Unique Unbaked Moroccan Sweet for Ramadan!

I always spend my two weeks before Ramadan baking up a storm, but this year is exceptional! I've received a few orders from my blog readers and friends, willing to buy my chabakia and sellou, and this has been the longest uninterrupted two weeks pre-Ramadan ever.  I spent most of my time between work and baking, a lot of baking, but guess what? I loved it, it was a pure delight to me!

This is Tquawt (also known as Sellou or Slilo or Sfouf or Zmitta), this is definitively top feel-home food for Ramadan in Morocco.  It has so many different names but each name refers to the same nut-based paste, known as energy paste or brown mixture.  This is a unique Moroccan speciality which is made of amazing mixture of almonds, sesame seeds and other spices and flavourings. Sellou is not only impressive to look at, it is a taste buds pleaser too!

Although Sellou might seem complicated to make, it is actually a very easy recipe if you have the right tools and ingredients required.  Most Sellou recipes contain two basic nuts (Almonds and Sesame Seeds), which are blended along with regional and traditional spices into a thick rich paste. Though Sellou is one of several traditional dessert treats, served at Weddings, Newborn Ceremonies and other special occasions, it is particularly consumed in Ramadan during Ftour or Iftar (the evening meal that breaks the day-long fast), as it is very nutritious and gives instant energy. Actually, this has made Sellou synonymous with Ramadan.

Traditionally, Sellou is considered as a natural dietary remedy, and is recommended for nursing mothers as it has been known to increase the milk supply. Moroccan nursing mothers consume this nutritious and fortifying paste for at least 30 days after childbirth, and it really helps to increase milk secretion.

As all Moroccan recipes, Sellou is no exception, it widely varies from one region to another and each family has its own secret recipe that includes the best fresh nuts and spices that could make the tastiest energy paste ever!   Sellou recipe remains controversial when it comes to discuss the ingredients based on.  Some recipes call for adding more fresh nuts, apart from sesame seeds and almonds, and different spices or flavourings for health benefits.  Others use pure olive oil or argan oil and honey instead of clarified butter and icing sugar, which is much healthier.  Some use roasted flour, whereas others do not. Despite the traditional and official recipe, Moroccans and cooks everywhere use various ingredients, but the result is all the same; a rich and tasty energy paste where flavours build and meld together creating an outstanding dessert!

Sellou is one sweet treat that typically tastes better with age, and traditionally, it is prepared one to two weeks ahead before the start of Ramadan, and it is supposed to last during the whole month and even sometimes stretch out over a couple months without worry (most freeze well too, though it is not necessary to freeze Sellou unless you want to save some for later).  This is the reason why the use of clarified butter is valued in the traditional recipes for its long-lasting freshness.

As you might know, there are several versions as well as adaptations of Sellou from all parts of Morocco that could leave you confused. In general and as far as I know, there are four (4) different varieties of Moroccan Sellou:

1-Sellou or Slilo or Sfouf: This version calls for roasted white or wheat flour as the main ingredient along with basic nuts and spices.  The flour should be roasted in the oven or in a heavy, ungreased skillet or pan until golden, stirring every few minutes otherwise it will burn. Your kitchen would smell like one of those bakeries in Morocco around the corner.

2-Tquawt: This is the flourless version of Selou. Basically the same ingredients in Sellou are used except for roasted flour. My mother used to make this version, and it was so delicious that was to die for!

3-Zamita or Toummette or Bssisse: Its preparation also varies from one region to another.

A-In the South, Souss region, there is sweet and savoury version: the sweet version is made by mixing roasted barley flour with argan oil, adding pure honey and pinch of salt to the mixture to form a crumbly consistency.

B-On the other hand, the savoury version uses boiled water, pinch of salt and argan oil.  In some regions, where argan oil is not available or too expensive, pure olive oil is used instead.

C-In Mekness and Taza, Sellou is called Zamita.  The word Zamita in these regions refers to Sellou version known in Casabalanca, Fes, Rabat, etc... Meknassi version also include toasted peanuts along with other special regional ingredients.

4-Taquenta: This is the Sellou version of Oujda. It's easy to make and it's mainly made of flour browned with salt and oil, then honey is added for sweetening.

Traditionally, the way Sellou is presented, the mixture is mounded in a pyramid on a plate, then decorated with some toasted almonds. Then Sellou is placed on individual plates and served to each person, just like a cake (See picture below)

Mabrouk Ramdan and 3wachr Mabrouka!

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