Packed with the flavours of North Africa, these crunchy pastry scrolls filled with delicate almond nougat and drizzled in a fragrant fruity honey syrup are just wonderful. Here’s how to make m’hencha.
For many of us – Christina and myself included – one of the big drawcards of a new destination is the food.
We travel on our tastebuds.
And when we find something delicious, we try to recreate it back at home. It’s a way of going back to that special place; that moment in time.
They all take you away for a little while.
When we were invited to a virtual cooking class with Melissa Leong and Chef Martin Benn to learn his take on a traditional North African pastry delicacy, we knew we were in for more than just a recipe.
This would whisk us away to the alleys in the arrowhead of Marrakech or the bustling beachside high-rise of Alexandria.
We weren’t disappointed.
Combined with a new line of espresso capsule coffee from Nescafe (more about that in a moment), this is the kind of coffee break or afternoon tea I want in my life as a regular attendee!
North African Delights – almond m’hencha with pistachio, honey and rose
To be honest, when we saw the list of ingredients and the method, we thought there’s no way we’ll be able to pull this off.
But you know what?
It actually came together quite easily (in under an hour) and was lots of fun.
And it was more than worth the effort.
These crunchy pastry scrolls filled with delicate almond nougat and drizzled in a fragrant fruity honey syrup are just wonderful.
Here’s what you need:
For the almond nougat filling
– 150g icing sugar, sifted
– 2 pinches of ground cinnamon
– 360g almond meal
– 30g plain flour
– 80g unsalted butter, melted
– 1 egg
– 2 pinches of salt
– 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
– 20g orange blossom water
– 2 drops almond essence
For the m’hencha
– 18 sheets of filo pastry
– 150g unsalted butter, melted
– 2-3 egg yolks, beaten
For the caramelised honey syrup
– 500g honey
– 150g fresh raspberries (though frozen raspberries would work at a pinch)
– 40g rose syrup
– 40g pistachio, roughly chopped
– 15g dried rose petals
Here’s what you do:
Start with the almond nougat filling
1. Add the dry ingredients (icing sugar, cinnamon, almond meal, flour and salt) to a large bowl. In another bowl combine the wet ingredients (the egg, vanilla paste, orange blossom water and almond essence) then whisk the melted butter in as well.
2. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients bowl and combine until you have a dense paste.
3. Divide the mix into 80g pieces – you should have about 6 pieces or a few more. Roll each piece into long sausages so they’re roughly the same length and the longest edge of the filo pastry. Set to one side.
Now for the M’hencha
4. Preheat your oven to 200dC. Flatten out one sheet of filo pastry on your kitchen surface and brush with butter. Lay another sheet of filo on top and butter likewise. Place a third sheet of filo on top and butter again.
5. Position one of the almond nougat logs at the bottom of the sheets of buttered filo and carefully roll it up in the pastry into a straw. It doesn’t have to be really tight or even, but don’t let the pastry go baggy either.
6. Bend one end in on itself and begin coiling the straw into a snail shape. When you have a coiled disc, trim the end of the straw at an angle and use a little more butter to seal the end to edge of the coil. Place this on a lined baking tray and repeat with the rest of the pastry and nougat.
7. When you’ve finished coiling your m’hencha, brush them in the remaining butter then glaze them in the beaten egg yolks. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Finally, the delicious honey syrup
8. Pour the honey into a small pan and bring it to the boil. Don’t let the boil go too far or you’ll burn the honey. If you have a culinary thermometer, 120dC is the magic number.
9. Remove from heat and add the raspberries, then bring the honey back to the boil. Remove from heat again and add the rose syrup, then bring briefly to the boil again. Remove from head again and crush the raspberries against the side of the pan with a spoon. Bring to the boil once more then leave to cool for a few minutes.
10. Pass the mixture through a metal sieve into a deep bowl so you’re left with a beautiful golden red sauce. Discard (or eat) the pulp.
11. To serve, submerge the hot m’hencha in the bowl of honey syrup and allow to cool on a rack. Onto a plate, add more syrup on top of the m’hencha and sprinkle with the pistachio and dried rose petals.
You’ll probably be left with quite a bit of the honey syrup, but don’t worry. This makes an incredible topping for breakfast cereals or oatmeal, ice cream or even in cocktails. Just make sure there’s no bits of pastry still in there!
The syrup will keep for a few days in the fridge.
How about a coffee to go with your m’hencha?
This pastry dish is absolutely superb and good for really any time of day. But served with a shot of strong coffee, it takes on another dimension.
Nescafe have recently launched their new line of coffee capsules, which are compatible with the original Nespresso machines, that suit this dish down to the ground.
Farmers Origins is Nescafe’s first premium coffee capsule range. It’s also sustainably sourced from the growers in five different coffee belts around the globe. ‘Africas’ is an intense yet berry forward coffee blend of robusta and arabica beans grown in Ethiopia and Uganda.
The countries that coffee originates from.
It’s best to drink this capsule as a ristretto espresso, which is pretty close to how coffee is served in North Africa too. Strong, dark, rich and full of flavour, this coffee goes with m’hencha perfectly.
There are four other Nescafe capsules from the Farmers Origins range. They herald from Colombia, Brazil, India and three countries of Central America (Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua) and all have completely different flavour profiles and intensity.