The evening after the seventh day marking the end of Passover, at nightfall and after the appearance of the first three stars, all the Jews of Morocco celebrate the Mimouna and there is not a more emblematic recipe of this holiday than the mofletta, also spelled mufleta, mofleta, moufleta, mafleta, and מופלטה in Hebrew.
How to make mofletta
Mofletta is a thin crepe made from a dough composed of flour, water, baker’s yeast, and oil. From this dough which must be flexible, are formed small balls of dough. Each ball of dough is well greased, then rolled very thinly by hand to form a crepe without any holes. These crepes are cooked on a greased pan until they are golden.
The cooking of moflettas is an art transmitted from mother to daughter and often daughter-in-law. The pan should be hot and barely greased. The first crepe should be placed on the hot pan, making sure not to pierce it. After about 30 seconds, you must turn the crepe over and immediately place a raw crepe on the cooked side of the first crepe, turn it over after one minute and repeat this process with another raw crepe placed on the previously cooked crepes and so on for half of moflettas.
You should stack about 8 moflettas before restarting the process until all the dough is used. Moflettas are served hot, usually with butter and honey, but also with jam or dried fruit.
What are the origins of mimouna?
The Torah, the teaching transmitted by God to Moses, forbids eating hametz, as well as possessing it, or enjoying it during Pesach. Hametz means “risen” in Hebrew, a leaven obtained by fermentation in contact with water.
By hametz we mean any grain or substance derived from wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt, mixed with water. Mimouna marks the end of this interdiction.
The supposed origins of the Mimouna are quite complex and therefore numerous.
According to one of the many currents of thought, it would be the anniversary of the death of Yosef Ben Maimon, father of the great Jewish philosopher and rabbi Maimonides (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon), also known as Rambam, who lived in Fez in Morocco and died in 1170.
Another popular theory is that the word Mimouna is a rewrite of the Hebrew word emunah (אמונה) which means faith in God:
Just as Jews were released from slavery in Egypt during the Hebrew month of Nissan (which usually coincides with the month of April), the total redemption of the world will also occur during the month of Nissan. Some believe that the Mimouna was created to show that Moroccan Jews had not lost their faith in the Messiah.
It is also said that the word Mimouna comes from the Hebrew word Mamone (ממון) meaning “money”: it was at the end of Pesach that the armies of the Pharaoh perished with all their gold and all their money, a wealth that the Red Sea has rejected after the Egyptians perished. It was then that the Hebrews would have been enriched by this unexpected booty that had come to waste on the shores of the Red Sea. They could not have recovered everything until the end of the party. It is therefore at the moment that corresponds to the Mimouna that they would have received this mamone.
Another version says that the Christian holiday of Easter often fell at the same time as Passover and the Christians in Spain were preparing a special loaf for this occasion called mona. The Jews waited impatiently for the end of Pesach to eat this bread and rushed to the baker to buy the mona. Everyone shouted “Mi Mona! Mi mona!” or “Mi mouna!”
Whatever the origins of this festival, its celebration is a very important moment in Moroccan Jewish communities around the world, and many communities in North Africa are also celebrating Mimouna today.
Customs and traditions of the Mimouna
I was born and raised in Fez, Morocco, and if I had to name this holiday, I would call it “the open house party”!
The evening of Mimouna, which is the festival of joy, family and friendship, people go from house to house and especially without having been invited, to meet with friends and relatives. During these visits, no door is closed.
These house-to-house visits last until the wee hours of the night and usually end with the tasting of sfenj. The next day is also devoted to family celebrations, visits and hospitality. Today, especially in Israel, where Mimouna has become a national holiday for all communities, hundreds of people have barbecues, especially in the parks.
The evening of the Mimouna, which is always an opportunity to strengthen ties with the Muslim and Christian neighbors, is the festival of Moroccan pastries! The meal consists exclusively of sweet foods, which highlights the hope of a sweet life.
On the table of the Mimouna, the flour symbolizes the end of Passover and the entrance of the hametz into the house. Wheat grains are also placed on the table. In the same bowl, gold coins and precious jewels are placed, symbols and hope of wealth and money for the coming year.
Cakes and all kinds of sweets symbolize happiness, a beautiful life and a sweet year. A pot filled with curdled milk and another with fresh milk symbolize the purity and beginning of a new year without sin.
A jar of honey and butter is placed to think of the Land of Israel where, as the sacred texts say, flow milk and honey.
A whole fish must also be placed on the table. It symbolizes fertility and birth, as well as the miracle of the split of the Red Sea.
All foods should be sweet and colorful, with savory foods being very rare on this evening. The star of the evening in every home is without question the mofletta!
The guests are always welcomed by the hosts they are visiting with the popular blessing: terbhou outssaadou (or terbeh outess’ed in the singular form), which means, in Judeo-Arabic, “may you win, may you succeed and may you only have happiness.”
A traditional Mimouna table will often include some or all of the following: cornes de gazelles, makroud, baghrir, fazuelos (manicotti), harcha, chebakia (griwech), couscous au beurre, almond briouates (samsa), ghraiba, and jabane nougat, all accompanied by mint tea.
- 4 cups flour
- 1¼ cup warm water (more or less)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (to work the dough)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (to grease the pan)
- Dilute the yeast and sugar in ½ cup of water and set aside for 15 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and dig a well in the center.
- Pour the mixture of water, sugar and yeast into this well.
- While kneading at medium speed, add the remaining water gradually, then add salt.
- Knead at high speed to obtain a very soft dough that comes off the edges of the bowl.
- Depending on the quality of the flour, it may be necessary to add water or flour to the dough.
- Let the dough rise for 1 hour covered with a cloth, away from drafts.
- Divide the dough into 25 pieces and toss them. Then coat them with oil and let them sit on a plate for 15 minutes.
- Heat a pan and lightly grease with a brush.
- On a very well oiled work surface, and with the help of your hands, spread the first piece of dough as thinly as possible, paying attention not to create any hole.
- Place the first mofletta on the hot pan.
- After about 20 seconds, turn the mofletta over and add another piece of dough over the first (cooked side). Turn everything over after one minute.
- Repeat the process with another raw mofletta placed on the previous ones and so on until all the pieces of dough have been used.
- Serve the hot moflettas with honey, butter and mint tea.