Sellou or sfouf is a rich, nutty Moroccan confection of almonds, sesame seeds and baked flour which, due to the high nutritive and caloric values of the ingredients, works as a tonic to restore energy and health. For that reason, it's a traditional offering during Ramadan and after childbirth, but you'll often find it served purely for its good taste at family celebrations and other special occasions.
While still packed with calories, this version of sellou is healthier than the traditional recipe in several ways – it calls for all wheat flour instead of white flour and includes the addition of flax seeds; it avoids the use of butter and processed oil and specifies roasted almonds rather than fried ones; and it uses honey instead of refined sugar as the sweetener.
The recipe was shared by Abdelhakim Lotfi, the manager of Espace Safran spice shop in Sidi Maarouf, Casablanca. Note that the quantity of cinnamon and anise is more robust than other sellou recipes I've encountered; you may want to mix those spices in gradually and more sparingly to taste.
Also note that the prep time is for the actual mixing of the sellou and does not include readying ingredients ahead of time as described in the directions below.
Mixing the Sellou: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: approx. 4 quarts (or liters)
- 1 1/4 kg (2 lb. 12 oz.) whole wheat flour
- 1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz.) whole almonds
- 1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz.) unhulled golden sesame seeds
- 1/2 kg (1 lb. 6 oz.) brown flax seeds
- 100 g (1 cup) ground cinnamon
- 100 g (1 cup) ground anise seeds
- 50 g (1/2 cup) ground fennel seeds
- 2 g (scant 1/2 teaspoon) mastic grains, crushed to a powder
- 1/2 g (1 teaspoon) saffron threads, crushed to powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- honey, to taste
Ahead of Time
1. Clean the sesame seeds. Sesame purchased from open bins in Morocco must be washed and picked through to remove stones and other debris. (Packaged sesame does not need to be washed, but should be picked through.) Allow several days to a week for this process. Wash the sesame seeds in several changes of water, drain thoroughly, then spread out in a thin layer on baking sheets or trays and leave to dry for two days. Then, pick through the seeds carefully and discard any debris you find.
2. Toast the cleaned sesame. This can be done in the oven or stove top. If using the oven, spread the sesame in very thin layers on baking sheets and toast the sesame in batches in a 400° F (200° C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crunchy and nutty in flavor. If using the stove, toast the sesame in batches in a skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and crunchy. Allow the sesame to cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container for later use.
3. Toast the flax seeds. Again, you can do this in the oven or on the stove. Same directions as above for the sesame seeds, except the flax seeds need only about 5 to 7 minutes cooking time with either method.
4. Brown the flour. Moroccan women usually take their flour to a public oven for browning, but the process can be done at home. If necessary, do this in batches as well. Place the flour in a very large baking pan and put it in a 400° F (200° C) degree oven for about 30 minutes or longer, or until light-to-medium golden brown. Stir every five minutes to prevent burning and to help the flour color evenly. When the flour is cool, sift it several times to remove (and discard) any balls. Cover and store in an airtight container until needed.
5. Toast the almonds. In a traditional sellou recipe, the almonds are blanched, peeled and fried. For this version, however, whole almonds will be toasted. If the almonds feel gritty, wash them one or two times in large bowls of water and drain well. Spread the almonds in a single layer onto baking sheets and bake (in batches, if necessary) in a preheated 400°F (200°C) oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until barely colored, fragrant and crunchy. Leave to cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container.
Mix the Sellou
If you have a good quality meat grinder, you can simplify the mixing process. Pass the almonds, sesame seeds and flax seeds through a meat grinder, then combine them in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Pass the mixture two more times through a meat grinder, stirring to evenly distribute ingredients after each mincing. Using your hands, mix in as much honey as you like to sweeten and moisten the mixture. (It can be dry and crumbly or moist enough to pack.) Store the healthy sellou in an airtight container.
If you don't have a meat grinder, you can mix the sellou in the more traditional manner below:
1. Sift the dry ingredients. Sift the browned flour, spices, mastic and salt through a fine sieve into into a very large mixing bowl, gsaa, or plastic basin. Discard any balls pf flour that remain in the sieve. Use your hands to thoroughly and evenly mix together the sieved ingredients.
2. Grind the seeds and almonds. In batches, finely grind the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor until almost paste-like. Finely grind the flax seeds until powdery. Grind the toasted almonds until almost a paste. Add the ground seeds and ground almonds to the sifted flour mixture.
3. Mix and blend thoroughly. Next, use your hands to toss and thoroughly blend everything together. Taste and add more spices if desired. Gradually work in enough honey to sweeten amd moisten the mixture to taste. The sellou can be a bit dry and powdery, or you may prefer it moist enough to pack.
4. Store the sellou. The sellou will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two months. Or, allow the sellou's flavors to blend for a day or two and then store in the freezer for up to six months.