Fried Mbesses / Mtekba – Algerian Semolina Sweet


Fried Mbesses an Algerian semolina sweet. Similar to Makrout being fried and coated in honey/syrup. It differs by having no date paste or nut filling, therefore cheaper and easier to make.

A lovely treat being rich, tender and sweet.

As promised I’m sharing my recipe for Fried Mbesses. Since my children and I already love the metal Tadjine-cooked Mbesses.

The main ingredients of the dough are semolina and smen (clarified butter).

Orange blossom water is the primary flavour of the sweet. As it is both an ingredient in the dough and honey/syrup.

I make fried mbesses a bit thinner than the tadjine cooked variety. This is in order for the Mbesses to be cooked through in the time it takes for the exterior to turn a deep golden brown when frying. Being thinner also means they will soak up the honey/syrup faster.

For convenience I normally use a store bought runny honey/syrup. Warmed through with a few tablespoons of orange blossom water.

The Mbesses pictured, are from a time I tested soaking the sweets in an homemade syrup. I wasn’t happy with how the syrup turned out at first, It crystallised. However, I did manage to rescue it by adding more water and simmering again for x amount of minutes. Needless to say, the homemade syrup recipe requires a few tweaks before I share it here on the blog.

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Fried Mbesses

An Algerian semolina sweet. Similar to Makrout, being fried then coated with honey/syrup. It differs by having no date paste or nut filling, therefore cheaper & easier to make.

  • 480 g Semolina (coarse, medium-grain)
  • 60 g Flour (plain )
  • 2 tsp Sugar (Vanilla)
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 175 g Smen (clarified butter, melted and cool)
  • 4 tbsp Orange Blossom Water (divided )
  • 145+/- ml Water
  • 2 cups Honey / Syrup
  1. In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients. Thoroughly rub the melted and cooled Smen-clarified butter into the semolina mixture (as you would do when making pastry or, as you would when traditionally seperating couscous – rubbing between two hands) cover bowl and leave for 30mins.
  2. Gently break up the semolina grains by gently rubbing between your hands. In the same method, bit by bit mix in 1tbsp orange blossom water and water until you can bring the dough together. More or less water maybe required depending on the quality of semolina and flour you use. Cover dough and leave to rest for a further 5-10mins.
  3. On a lightly greased worktop take care to roll / press out dough to a thickness of 1-1 ½cm. Cut out Mbesses using your desired size and shape cookie cutter – I use a 5cm square. Re-roll scraps of dough and continue cutting out until all dough is used up. Makes approximately 18-20 pieces (depends of thickness of dough, size and shape of cookie cutter). Allow Mbesses to rest 15mins uncovered before frying. Meanwhile in a medium saucepan warm-up syrup/honey with 3tbsp orange blossom water – it should be warm but not boiling. Set aside.
  4. Pour oil into a large high-sided frying pan, or equivalent until it’s about 2inches/5cm deep and warm over medium heat. After a few mins test oil is hot enough by adding a scrap piece of dough, If it quickly rises to the surface and oil bubbles around it then oil is ready. Fry Mbesses in batches until golden brown on both sides (approx 2-3mins per side). Using a slotted spoon / spatula carefully remove and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper towels – to remove excess oil. Then toss them into your syrup/honey, allow to soak for as long as possible while the next batch is frying. Remove, strain excess syrup and place directly onto a serving plate or, allow to fully cool before storing.
  • Lovely served with mint green tea.
  • Best eaten same day but can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days at room temp.
  • After storing glaze with syrup/honey again before serving.

My recipe is adapted somewhat from Aux Délices du Plais recipe.

Fried Mbesses / Mtekba – Algerian Semolina Sweet
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Fried Mbesses / Mtekba – Algerian Semolina Sweet

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