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Recipe: Medfouna (Berber Buns)
From Lerato Umah-Shaylor's 'Africana'
When exploring the land of the Berbers, or Imazighen meaning "free people," one of the most delicious and enchanting discoveries you'll experience is medfouna/ madfouna, meaning "buried" in Arabic. My version of this "buried" bread are delightful buns inspired by the fondly named Berber pizza, a stuffed flatbread typically baked in a sand fire pit or mud oven. Yeasted dough is kneaded and stuffed with anything from wild mushrooms, goat's or ewe's cheese and meat, to nuts, spices, aromatics and more, depending on what flora and fauna the people are blessed with. I especially love salty and creamy goats cheese, but you could use feta or a vegan cheese. These buns are just wonderful with a crispy exterior and rich flavors that remind me of Moroccan briouate, with which I am completely obsessed.
Medfouna (Berber Buns)
FOR THE DOUGH
200g plain flour
100g fine semolina flour
1/2 level teaspoon fine sea salt
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (1 × 7g sachet)
200ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil
FOR THE LAMB
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, peeled and sliced
350g lamb mince
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 teaspoon Ras el hanout
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
TO SHAPE AND COOK
Fine semolina, for dusting
Oil, for rolling and oiling hands
1 tablespoon Ras el Hanout Oil
Start by preparing the dough. Place the flours, salt and yeast into a large bowl or the bowl of your freestanding mixer and mix to combine. Create a well in the centre and gradually pour in the water and oil while mixing with your hands, a wooden spoon or the mixer on low speed. If the dough is dry, add water a tablespoon at a time, up to 60ml. If it feels too sticky, add a very light dusting of flour to correct the moisture level.
Either knead in the freestanding mixer on medium speed until the dough transforms into a soft, smooth and elastic ball, or very lightly flour a clean and smooth surface and turn the dough out onto it. Sprinkle another very light dusting of flour onto the dough and start to knead. Push the dough away from you, then fold the top end towards you. Turn the dough 90 ̊ and repeat. Continue kneading by hand for 10 minutes, until soft, smooth and elastic.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a wax or clean cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until increased in size. (At this stage you can leave the dough to chill in the refrigerator overnight. Bring it up to room temperature before baking.)
To prepare the lamb filling, heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the onion with a small pinch of fine sea salt. Cook for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden. Add the lamb and fry for 10 minutes, stirring often, until well cooked. Stir in the spices and thyme and cook for 3 minutes, adding a small splash of water, if necessary, to keep the mixture moist. Remove the pan from the heat, add the fresh herbs and mix well to combine. Leave to cool completely.
Transfer the dough to a very lightly floured surface and punch to knock out any air. Roll the dough into a thick log and divide into 4. Very lightly dust the top of each piece and roll back into a ball. Return the balls to the oiled bowl – if not wide enough to fit the individual dough balls in one single layer, use an oiled tray. Cover and leave to rest for another 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 ̊C/180 ̊C fan/gas mark 6 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Brush them with olive oil, dust with fine semolina and place in the oven to heat.
Place each dough ball on a very lightly oiled surface, flatten with the heel of your palm and roll out to about 15cm rounds. Spoon a quarter of the cooled filling into the centre of each piece of flattened dough, then gently pull the edges of the dough into the centre and pinch to seal together. Gently roll the filled dough into a ball, brush with Ras el Hanout Oil and place on the preheated tray.
Increase the oven temperature to 220 ̊C/200 ̊C fan/gas mark 8 and bake the buns in the middle of the oven for 15–20 minutes, until golden and crusty. Serve immediately. These buns are just wonderful with Smoky Tomato & Date Jam.
For a caramelised onion and mushroom version, replace the onion and lamb mince with 2 red onions, peeled and sliced, and 750g sliced mixed mushrooms. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan set over a medium heat. Add the onions with a small pinch of fine sea salt and cook for 10 minutes, until softened. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15–20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dark golden and caramelised. Add another tablespoon of oil and increase the heat to medium. Once hot, add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well cooked. Stir in the spices and thyme, cook for 3 minutes then take the pan off the heat. Add the fresh herbs and stir to combine. Set aside to cool completely before breaking 150g goat’s cheese or vegan cheese into the mixture, using a fork to break it up. Continue as above to fill and cook the buns.
From Africana: More than 100 Recipes and Flavors Inspired by a Rich Continent, by Lerato Umah-Shaylor. Photos by Tara Fisher. Published by Amistad, HarperCollins.
Ras el Hanout Butter or Oil
Makes 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or oil
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
Melt the butter or warm the oil in a small saucepan.
Add the ras el hanout and mix well.
Use to finish roasts or grills, or to drizzle on salads.