Alaju (Arabic Honey Slice)

Alaju (Arabic Honey Slice)
4.5 from 2 ratings
A kind of Middle Eastern panforte, this ancient Arabic sweetmeat comes from Spain courtesy of the Moors, and is simplicity itself to make. It is a bit fiddly skinning the blanched pistachio nuts, and not absolutely essential if you can’t be bothered. But the resulting little nuggets of brilliant jade green are a joy to behold. Toast them for a few minutes brushed with a little oil in a really hot oven to make them nice and crunchy. Similarly, it is worth shallow-frying the almonds to a golden brown — it makes for a toastier flavour, and a superior crunchy texture. Once the business with the nuts is out of the way, the rest of the recipe is an absolute doddle. — Greg and Lucy Malouf, authors of Moorish
  • 1 3/4 fluid ounces vegetable oil
  • 4 ounce whole blanched almonds
  • 1 ounce unsalted pistachio nuts, blanched and peeled
  • 9 ounce honey
  • coarsely grated zest of 1/2 lemon and 1 orange
  • 5 1/2 ounce stale white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 teaspoon orange-blossom water
  • 1 teaspoon aniseed, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 2 sheets rice paper, each 9 1/2 inches square
  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the almonds over a gentle heat until golden brown.
  2. Remove and drain on paper towel. Repeat with the pistachio nuts.
  3. Put the honey into a saucepan with the citrus zests and slowly bring to a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, blitz the bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs.
  5. Add the nuts to the hot honey, and then the breadcrumbs. Stir continuously for about 5 minutes.
  6. It will look very unpromising to start off, and after a few minutes it will begin to come together in a solid mass, and thicken to a stiff, almost glutinous paste.
  7. Keep stirring and turning, which will become increasingly hard work, until the 5 minutes is up. Then remove the pan from the heat and add the orange-blossom water and aniseed, stirring again to incorporate into the mass.
  8. Turn the mixture out onto on sheet of rice paper, and pat it into a round disc about 8 inches in diameter. Cover with the second piece of rice paper and press down gently to about a finger’s width in height.
  9. You may find it easier, as we did, to use a small jar, or a rolling pin to roll the paste out to a smooth, even height.
  10. Neaten the edges with a sharp knife and allow to cool. Store in an airtight tin and slice off pieces to serve with coffee as a petit four.
  11. Recipe excerpted with permission from Moorish: Flavours from Mecca to Marrakech by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant Books, 2014)