How to Make Seffa Medfouna with Steamed Vermicelli (Chaariya)

  • 01 of 09

    What is Seffa ? What is Seffa Medfouna?

    Moroccan Seffa Medfouna - Decorated and Ready to Serve. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Seffa is a famous Moroccan dish which features a dome of steamed couscous or broken vermicelli (chaariya) sweetened with raisins, butter and powdered sugar. Ground fried almonds, cinnamon and more powdered sugar are used to garnish the final dish. Prepared this way, seffa is most likely to be served as a follow-up course to an entree. 

    It earns main dish status – and a new name, Seffa Medfouna – when poultry or meat is added. In this case, chicken, lamb or beef is stewed in a savory...MORE saffron-infused sauce and then concealed within the decorated mound of vermicelli or couscous. It can be served alone or as a second entree.

    The following photos show how to steam the broken vermicelli and prepare authentic Seffa Medfouna. Broken angel hair pasta may be used as well. Omit the steps involving meat if you want to make plain Seffa.

    If you'd like to prepare the dish with couscous, see How to Steam Couscous and Couscous Seffa Recipe.

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  • 02 of 09

    Prepare the Saffron Chicken, Lamb or Beef

    Cook the Saffron Chicken, Lamb or Beef. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Start by cooking the chicken, lamb or beef, following the directions in the Seffa Medfouna Recipe.

    Here I've prepared the saffron chicken, which is my personal favorite with Seffa Medfouna. Note that no water was added to the chicken during cooking, and yet a rich sauce has formed. When cooking lamb or beef, however, you'll use a little water.

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  • 03 of 09

    Boil the Water and Add Oil to the Dry Broken Vermicelli (Chaariya)

    Boil Water and Add Oil to the Dry Vermicelli. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    While the meat is cooking, you'll be steaming the broken vermicelli four or five times, or the couscous three times. Here I'll be showing the procedure for steaming the vermicelli.

    Start by filling the base of a couscoussier at least halfway with salted water, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, enough to keep the water simmering rapidly.

    Next, mix 3 tablespoons of oil into 2 lbs. (about 1 kg) of dry, broken vermicelli. Be sure all the strands are coated...MORE with oil.

    Note: If preparing the dish with couscous rather than broken vermicelli, see How to Steam Couscous and skip to step 9 to see how to serve the Seffa Medfouna.

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  • 04 of 09

    1st Steaming of the Vermicelli

    First Steaming of the Vermicelli. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Transfer the oiled vermicelli to the steamer basket, and place atop the couscoussier. Allow to steam for at least 20 minutes, timing from when you see the steam rise from the vermicelli. Watch for the ends of the broken vermicelli to poke up. (Click on the photo above to see this close-up.)

    When using a couscoussier, be sure that no steam escapes from the joint where the steamer meets the base. If steam escapes, you'll want to seal the joint. You can do this in one of several ways:

    • wrap and...MORE tie a long piece of damp cloth over the joint, or
    • tightly wrap a long piece of kitchen plastic film around the joint, or
    • wrap and drape a long piece of kitchen plastic film onto the rim of the couscoussier, and then place the basket on top (this is my preferred method)

    Be sure to seal the joint if necessary each time you steam the vermicelli.

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  • 05 of 09

    2nd Steaming of the Vermicelli

    Add Water and Steam the Vermicelli a Second Time. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Turn the vermicelli out into a very large bowl. Break it apart, and mix in about 1 1/4 cups water. The vermicelli should absorb most of it.

    Put the vermicelli back into the steamer, and place it atop the couscoussier for the second steaming. Allow to steam again for 20 minutes, timing from when you see the steam rise through the vermicelli. Again, you'll notice the ends of the vermicelli poking up.

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  • 06 of 09

    3rd Steaming of the Vermicelli

    Add Salted Water and Steam a Third Time. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Turn the vermicelli out into a large bowl, and break it apart. Stir 2 teaspoons of salt into 2 cups of water, and add this to the vermicelli, tossing to mix well.

    Put the vermicelli back into the steamer, and steam for a third time for 20 minutes. Again, time the steaming from when the steam rises from the vermicelli, and watch for the ends to poke up.

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  • 07 of 09

    4th Steaming of the Vermicelli with Raisins

    Add Raisins and Steam the Vermicelli a Fourth Time. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    Now you'll be adding raisins. Turn the steamed vermicelli out into your large bowl. Break it apart, and mix in 1 cup of soaked golden raisins and 1 cup of water.

    Transfer the vermicelli back into the steamer, and place atop the couscsoussier. Steam for a fourth time, again about 20 minutes, timing from when the steam rises through the vermicelli.

    Test the vermicelli. If you want it a little more tender, steam for a fifth time (see next step).

    If you feel the vermicelli is tender enough, skip to...MORE step 9 to see how to decorate and serve the Seffa.

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  • 08 of 09

    5th and Final Steaming of the Vermicelli

    Final Steaming of the Vermicelli. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    For this final steaming of the vermicelli, add only enough water – up to a cup – to make it a little more tender. Place back into the steamer, and steam for the final time for another 20 minutes. It should now be ready to serve.

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  • 09 of 09

    Decorate and Serve the Seffa Medfouna

    Conceal the Meat and Decorate the Seffa. Photo © Christine Benlafquih

    To serve Seffa Medfouna, you'll first sweeten the steamed couscous or steamed vermicelli. In a large bowl, gently mix 4 tablespoons soft unsalted butter and 1 cup powdered sugar (or to taste) with the couscous or vermicelli.

    Place about a third of the sweetened couscous or vermicelli on a large serving platter. Arrange the chicken or meat over this mound, and cover with the sauce.

    Mound the remaining couscous or vermicelli into a dome, fully concealing the chicken or meat. Decorate the dome...MORE with ground cinnamon, ground fried almonds and powdered sugar. This is usually done in alternating vertical lines.

    Serve the Seffa Medfouna with small bowls of cinnamon, powdered sugar and almonds on the side. Traditionally each guest eats from his own side of the plate, adding additional powdered sugar, cinnamon and almonds as desired.