Taste of Morocco: The Seffa and the Seffa Medfouna – 2 recipes in one

Taste of Morocco:

Popular Moroccan Delicacies


The Seffa and the Seffa Medfouna 

2 recipes in one!

A  long foreword and introduction

Seffa is a very specific dish as it can be regarded as a dessert however it can also serve as a full meal. This dish can traditionally be made out of couscous or vermicelli or as it’s called chaariya the teeny tiny pasta generally used for soups. In Morocco it has its own name but its generally called seffa as is. This time I will do my best to introduce you as to how to do the simpler dessert version. For beginners this is more than enough, especially when it comes to getting expertise in steaming the couscous at least half as proper as it should be. This is a big task, so you gotta gain experience in it and there is nothing wrong with that.

Down below I will explain to you how to steam couscous and will also include the link to a step by step instructional guide to further assist you. I would suggest everyone to start with very small quantities, to actually get used to the handling couscous, then go on to bigger quantities step by step. Now, let’s see the recipe of this delicious dish which is also used for Iftars during Ramadan and also is a very popular sweet for the Eid celebrations when the family is traditionally celebrating together.
I did my best to introduce you to a recipe which is good for 4 persons. Would you want to make more, you can easily just duplicate everything.

To make sure your couscous is sweet and fine, it’s suggested that you steam at least one part of the raisins along with the couscous, however this is up to personal choice ( some of you may not like raisins so you can leave them out and enjoy the whole seffa without them).

Raisins are usually steamed with the couscous and therefore are mixed throughout. If you prefer, steam the raisins separately on the side until plump and tender and use them to garnish the couscous. That way people who don't care for them can easily leave them out. Check out more helping materials at the end of the recipe:

The Seffa

For the topping and decorations:
v  1/2 cup almonds always blanched
v  1 tsp orange flower water - optional  
v  2 tsp powdered sugar
For the seffa:
v  1 lbs. (about ½  kg) dry couscous
v  1,5-2 tsp vegetable oil (normal vegetable oil will do)
v  1/2 tsp salt
v  1,5 cup of milk
v  ½ cup golden raisins – they are much better if they are soaked in water for 20 minutes
v  2 tsp unsalted butter – not hard but not liquid either
v  1/2 cup powdered sugar
v  1 tsp- 1,5 tsp grounded cinnamon


  • Take the blanched almonds and with the exception of a few whole ( take these out for decorating the dish) and grind them only lightly, then fry them with a little bit of powdered sugar on them ( add a hint of orange flower water if you have it available) when ready, put them in a container and store them ( this can be done well ahead of cooking)
  • Steam the couscous 2 times then when you turn them out into a large bowl the 3rd time mix them together with the milk and gently rub it with your fingers to avoid any clumps. Add the raisins and after this, steam them one more time for about 15 minutes
  • When you turn it out in the bowl gently mix it with the butter and arrange it in a pyramid sort of format. You can decorate it with powdered sugar, cinnamon and the whole almonds just like on the photo.

On how to Blanche the almonds: click here to visit my earlier post

On making the Couscous and the myth of couscoussier:

The couscoussier is a special type of steamer which has been devised especially for the steaming of couscous. This is very fine and acceptable if you live in Morocco and so you need to use it for at least once a week, for the Friday couscous.

However these are not easy to get in the West and especially for those who don’t eat couscous often this is really an unwanted cost only. You can use any type of steamers to achieve a good consistency of your couscous. The most important factor in this is for your couscous never ever be boiled directly in the water, because if it does so, it loses its signature look, taste and it just won’t be any good. Steam the couscous at least 2-3 or even 4 times over hard boiling water and then it’s ready to serve.
If the holes are too big in your steamer you can use a muslin cloth and place the couscous on it so they don’t fall in the water. Between steaming sessions you need to whisk it, rake it and douse it with oil and water. This all serves for the couscous to absorb lots of water, without actually meeting it. With multiple steaming you can gain a lot more out of your ordinary couscous, even from the instant type! (Though more experienced and avid cooks hate instant couscous, sometimes you work with what you have don’t you).

However if you would like to learn more on the process of steaming(s) and on what to take care of while doing it, click here for a step-by-step guide as to how to do it. If you use your own steamer the process is very similar anyways.

Seffa Medfouna

Seffa Medfouna is a very popular meat dish in Morocco made with the very same seffa base but there is additional meat hidden underneath the pryamid of couscous (or vermicelli which is also steamed a bit similarly to couscous) Let’s see now how to prepare the meat so it goes with all the upper mentioned sweet. But for preparing this meat take the double of all the upper mentioned quantities.
For meat I suggest you to use chicken as the easiest more versatile choice of meat: 

v  1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
v  2 large sweet onions, chopped medium
v  1 tbsp. ground ginger
v  1/2 tsp black pepper
v  1 tsp white pepper
v  1 tsp crumbled saffron thread
v  2 smaller sticks of cinnamon
v  1,5 to 2 tsp salt
v  4 tbsp. butter
v  1 tsp turmeric
v  1/4 cup virgin olive oil
v  1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

It’s important that you cook the meat while steaming the couscous, this way to ensure everything will be ready in more of less the same time.
  • Put the chicken in a good frying pot along with the chopped onions, cinnamon, the spices, the olive oil, the cilantro.
  • Gently fry the chicken until it gets light brown (about 10 mins)
  • Cover it and cook it further without additional water just cover it and let it cook in its own sauce and cook it until it’s only a small amount of its own sauce left at the bottom
  • Take out the cinnamon sticks and when ready you decide if you want to take out the bones or not
  • Serve it in the middle of a big place so that you can place all the sweet couscous on top and all around it in a pile or pyramid.
  • Decorate it with the almonds, raisins, cinnamon and powdered sugar

As I wrote in my piece on Moroccan traditional eating culture, Moroccans like to eat out of one big plate. This comes from Islam and its a tradition. People eat using their hands shaping the couscous into smaller balls to eat cozily.

For a step by step photo guide on how to blance AND fry almonds click here.

I hope you liked these recipes and that I will get you to try them. I promise as soon as I will have the time, I will take photos of my dishes and will do the step by step introductions myself as well. Should you have any questions, notes or remarks for me, please don’t hesitate to write to me in the comment section below. 


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