Sunday, 23 January 2011

Mahjouba or Mahajeb a la Biskria محجوبة أو محاجب بنكهة بسكرية

I love making Mahjouba even dough it is a time consuming task. I love kneading and stretching the dough, I like the smell in the kitchen; I like all the waiting and the excitement from the members of my family. My eldest son used to call it Mahbouba by mispronunciation (he was three) by we never corrected him as he was still right: Mahbouba means the loved one in Arabic.

Some people will be surprised by the addition of carrots in the filling. This the way it is done in Biskra ‘the capital of Mahjouba’ in Algeria and the hometown of my husband.
In Biskra, women developed an amazing skill of handling the dough and stretching it on their arms and they prepare Mahjouba not in square folded form but in thin stuffed discs.

I have been practicing this skill with my mother in law for few years now and I am nearly there inch Allah (God willing). I will take pictures or a video next time I do it this way in Algeria as I need a bigger griddle which is not available in the UK.

Linguistic note: Mahjouba means the covered one… Got it!!!


6 onions (finely chopped: I use the food processor)
2 grated carrots
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato puree
½ tin chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
A handful of chopped coriander
Salt & pepper
1 hot pepper (optional)


750 g fine semolina
2 tbsp salt
Water (about 800ml)


1.     Fry the onions and carrots in a little olive oil until softened (covered in a heavy bottomed pot).
2.     Add the tomatoes (both types), salt and pepper and cook covered, for approximately another 15 minutes. The mixture should have reduced (no more liquids) and improved in flavours.
3.     Add chopped coriander and Set aside to cool.

1.     Mix semolina and salt. Slowly add water until you get a ball of dough.
2.     Keep sprinkling more water (gradually) and work the dough vigorously until it becomes soft but not sticky.
3.     Oil your fingers; divide the dough into small balls about the size of an egg. Put them on an oiled tray, cover and let it stand for 30 minutes
4.     Spread dough on an oiled surface, by flattening and stretching it to form a very thin sheet.
5.     Spread a tbsp of stuffing in the middle of the sheet.
6.     Fold two sides of the sheet, then the other two to form a square.
7.     Drizzle with oil and bake on a lightly oiled griddle or a good quality frying pan