Sellou (also called sfouf or zmita) is a unique unbaked Moroccan sweet made from toasted unhulled sesame seeds, fried almonds and flour that has been browned in the oven. Packed with calories and nutrients, it's traditionally served during Ramadan and after childbirth, when there's greater need to restore energy and maintain good health. It's also served at Eid, weddings and other special occasions.
Recipes for sellou vary from family to family and by region. The Fez style recipe below was taught to me by my mother-in-law. How to Make Sellou shows the process. Reduce the measures by half if you don't want a traditionally large batch.
Note that the prep time is for the actual mixing of the sellou and does not include the prep work involved with getting the sesame seeds, flour and almonds ready. That work is typically done in the days or weeks before blending ingredients together.
Also try the Healthy Sellou Recipe.
Prep Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Yield: approx. 4 quarts (or liters)
- 1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz.) unhulled golden sesame seeds
- 1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz.) almonds
- 1 kg (2 lb. 3 oz.) flour
- 1/4 kg (about 2 1/4 cups) powdered sugar (or more to taste)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 to 2 tablespoons ground anise
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon mastic or gum Arabic, crushed to a powder (optional)
- generous 1/2 kg (1 lb.) butter, approx.
- vegetable oil (for frying the almonds)
Clean and toast the sesame. Several days before you plan to make the sellou, wash the sesame seeds to remove dirt. Drain the sesame, spread them out on a large baking pan, and leave to dry for a day or two. When dry, pick through the sesames to remove any sticks, stones or other debris that didn't wash away. In batches, spread the sesame in a single layer on a large baking sheet, and toast the sesame in a 400° F (200° C) oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crunchy and nutty in flavor. (Or, toast the sesame in batches in a skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.) When the sesame is cool, store in a covered container until needed.
Brown the flour. The flour needs to be cooked before it can be used in the recipe. This can be done one to two weeks prior to making the sellou. 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 any balls. Cover and set store until needed.
Skin and fry the almonds. Drop the almonds in boiling water and blanch for a minute or two. Drain the water, and skin the almonds while still warm. (Pinching the almonds between your thumb and forefinger will help pop the almonds out of their skins.) Spread the almonds in a single layer on a towel, and leave them to dry thoroughly.
Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, and fry the almonds in batches, stirring constantly, until light to medium golden brown. The almonds will continue to darken to a richer golden brown once they're removed from the oil. (Be careful not to let the oil get so hot that the almonds brown too quickly and take on a burnt flavor; the frying should take about five to 10 minutes for the almonds to color properly so that they are cooked inside as well as out.) Drain and cool the fried almonds.
Clarify the butter. The day before you plan to mix the sellou, clarify the butter. Melt the butter over low heat in a large pot until the milk solids separate to the bottom of the pot and a foam forms on top. Carefully skim off and discard all the foam. Place the pot in the refrigerator and leave overnight. In the morning, the butter will be hard and the milk solids can be poured off. Save the clarified butter in the fridge until ready to use.
Mix the sellou. Melt the clarified butter and set aside. In a very large mixing bowl, sift the browned flour, powdered sugar, spices and salt through a fine sieve. Discard any tiny balls of browned flour that remain in the sieve. Use your hands to toss and thoroughly blend the mixture.
Finely grind the toasted sesame seeds in a food processor until almost paste-like. (I like to reserve a bowlful of unground sesame to mix into the sellou for crunch and texture.) Add the ground sesame to the flour mixture. Next grind the fried almonds (I grind half the almonds to a smooth paste, and the other half just until the oils are released.) Add the almonds to the mixture as well.
Next, use your hands to toss and thoroughly blend everything together. Taste and add a little more sugar or spices if desired. Gradually work in enough of the melted, clarified butter to form a glistening mixture that is moist enough to pack into a ball or mound. Knead the sellou for a few minutes to ensure everything is mixed thoroughly before transferring to a plastic container. (The sellou will continue to absorb the butter and dry a little bit as it is stored.) Leave the sellou to cool, and then cover.
Store and serve. Sellou keeps well for two months or longer in an airtight plastic container; it can also be frozen for up to six months. Allow newly prepared sellou to sit for a day or two before freezing. To serve, shape a mound of sellou on a small plate. Decorate with sifted powdered sugar and/or fried almonds.