Mahjouba recipe is popular Algerian street food that comprises a flaky semolina flatbread stuffed with harissa-flavoured spicy onion-tomato filling. Rava dosas can wait...
I have always professed my love for semolina with recipes like rava upma, rava kesari, arabic puddings, bradj, etc. So, when I came across this Algerian crepe recipe during my Globe Cooking Mad series, I had to make it.
What is Mahjouba?
Mahjouba, Mahdjouba, or mhajeb are names of the typical Algerian street food with flaky crepes made with semolina and stuffed with a harissa-flavoured tomato-onion filling. You will find both the veg and non-veg version. Today, I am sharing a Mahjouba recipe without meat.
- semolina: use fine semolina for best results. You may use a mix of fine and coarse if you are running short. If you don't have access to fine, then use coarse by pulsing it in a processor a few times.
- oil: any cooking oil like sunflower or olive oil will work.
- veggies: you will need onion, garlic, tomato and coriander leaves. You may add red bell peppers if you cannot source harissa paste.
- ground spices: salt, pepper, red chilli or papkira (optional)
- tomato paste
- harissa paste: optional but highly recommended. If you cannot source or make it, include red bell pepper along with onions.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make it?
Like the making of muttabaq, Mahjouba recipe too needs you to just mix, knead, spread, stuff, close and roast! You can make a batch of Mahjouba easily if planned well.
- prepare the dough and while it is resting,
- prepare the sauce and let it cool
- assemble and pan roast
Mix semolina and salt with water a little at a time until you can form a dough. Transfer to the counter and knead until the dough is no longer sticky! Keep kneading even after you “think” you have achieved the desired state. Your mind can fool you because your hands are hurting!
Grease a large tray with oil. Squeeze equal-sized balls and place them on the tray. You can make 4 to 6 balls with this recipe. Brush them with oil and cover the tray with cling wrap. Keep this to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. (This is my old kitchen pic where I used the large steel plate to spread the dough. You may use this or your clean counter)
Saute and cook the onions, garlic, tomatoes in olive oil with freshly ground pepper and harissa paste. Cover and cook until the tomatoes are all soft. Switch off and stir in the freshly chopped coriander leaves. Let it cool completely before you can use it.
Lightly oil your work surface and flatten a dough ball using your palm. Gently pull the edges to stretch the dough into a paper-thin rectangle.
Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of the dough, and with the back of a spoon gently spread it out evenly.
Fold the sides of the rectangle over the filling to seal and enclose the filling.
Transfer the stuffed crepe to the hot pan.
Cook by flipping until browned on both sides. It can take 5 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, work on your next dough ball. Serve immediately!
Two things that will help you achieve Mahjouba on the first attempt - Don't skimp on using oil and no rolling pins, please!
Dough: If you find yourself struggling to get the dough ready, seek help with some flour. Traditionally this is made only with semolina but there are recipes that use both semolina and flour. You can start with a teaspoon of all-purpose flour to get you going.
Spices: You can use chilli flakes instead of red chilli or paprika. You may skip this and use green chillies if you prefer them. I do.
Harissa paste: If you cannot source or make harissa paste, then the best option is to add some finely chopped red bell pepper along with onions. Not exactly a sub but a great alternative. You may also just use any other hot sauce of your choice but that would not be a true Algerian recipe.
Tomato paste: You may use tomato ketchup or just add an additional small tomato.
These Algerian Mahjouba are best eaten immediately like a true street food. They tend to get hard and stretchy when kept out. Keep the leftovers covered and reheat covered to prevent drying out.
Mahjouba | Algerian Semolina Crepes
For the dough
- 2 cups fine semolina
- salt to taste
- 1 cup water (may need more while kneading and this will depend on the quality of the semolina so add little by little)
- cooking oil (keep a bowl of oil close to the work area)
For the filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon tomato paste
- 2 tomatoes chopped roughly
- 2 teaspoon harissa paste add gradually as per your taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika powder
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
Prepare the dough
- In a large shallow bowl mix the semolina and salt and start adding water little by little until you can form a dough. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead by stretching back and forth using the lower part of the palm. Sprinkle water every few minutes until the dough is no longer sticky!2 cups fine semolina, salt to taste, 1 cup water
- Grease a large tray with oil. Squeeze equal-sized balls of dough between index and thumb and place them on the tray with space between each dough ball. Brush them with oil and cover the tray with cling wrap. Keep this to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes.cooking oil
Prepare the filling
- Heat a saucepan on medium flame and add olive oil. Add in the finely chopped onions along with a dash of salt, and sauté until translucent. Add the grated garlic, and tomato paste, and let it cook for a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes along with the spice powders and harissa paste.1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 onions, 2 garlic cloves, 2 teaspoon tomato paste, 2 tomatoes, 2 teaspoon harissa paste, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon paprika powder, salt to taste
- Stir to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Cook until the tomatoes soften. Add more olive oil or drops of water if the mixture is too dry. Taste test and adjust the spices and salt.
- Switch off and stir in the freshly chopped coriander leaves. Let it cool completely before you can use it.2 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
- Heat the flat pan on a low flame so it is ready by the time your first Mahjouba is ready to be cooked. Oil your hands and work surface very well. Take one dough ball and cover the rest.
- Lightly oil your work surface and flatten a dough ball using your palm. Gently use both your palms to stretch the dough all the way around until transparent. Pull the edges to stretch the dough into a paper-thin rectangle. You may end up with a few holes and that is okay.
- Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of the dough, and with the back of a spoon gently spread it out evenly. Fold the sides of the rectangle over the filling to seal and enclose the filling.
pan roast the crepes
- Transfer the stuffed crepe to the hot pan. You can try and lift the Mahjouba using a spatula and lay it on the hot pan OR if you have trouble, then choose to fold the Mahjouba on a large plate so you can transfer the prepared square onto your hand and then onto the pan.
- Cook by flipping until browned on both sides. It can take 5 to 8 minutes to get done. Serve immediately! Meanwhile, work on your next dough ball.
This post was originally published as part of the MENA Cooking Club (now disbanded).
adapted the recipe from Halal HomeCooking and The Taste of Algeria video.