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Backstory'Warka' is the crisp, paper-thin pastry from North Africa that is used to make the famous Tunisian 'briks' (stuffed parcels) or the classic Moroccan 'bisteeya' (sweet, spiced pigeon pie). Warka is for the obsessed and the mad, yet we have taken much pride (and patience) in making it at Moro from the beginning. If you do manage to persevere and succeed, you deserve to have a feeling of genuine achievement. It is a case of 'once you get the hang of it it's easy', but nevertheless very few people outside North Africa make it. We were lucky enough to see it being made in the kitchens of the La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech but, even so, it took a steely determination to succeed.
A few tips on making Warka
Good flour is important,The warka dough must sit in the fridge for 45 minutes for the
gluten in the flour to develop.
- 300g strong white bread flour
- 3 teaspoons sunflower or olive oil
- 3 teaspoons wine or malt vinegar
- 300ml tepid water, plus 2 tablespoons
- The pan that the sheets of warka are made on is as important as the dough itself. In Morocco they use what looks like an upside-down tray or paella pan made of copper. In this country
- you will have to be resourceful. A non-stick frying pan that just fits snugly on top of a saucepan is ideal. At home we put a non-stick pan on top of the saucepan and tape both handles
- together to stop them moving about. If the surface is not non-stick then it must first be cleaned very well and lightly oiled.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl.
- Mix the oil, vinegar and the 300ml water together in a jug.
- Slowly start beating the liquid into the flour (a third at a time) using your fingers.
- Try to beat out the lumps as they appear.
- Once all the water in the jug is incorporated, beat well with your fingertips for 3 minutes
- (as if whisking egg whites).
- Relax in the fridge, covered, for about 45 minutes.
- While the warka dough is resting, get your warka pan ready.
- Fill your saucepan with water to just over half-full and bring to the boil.
- Reduce to a gentle simmer, and cover with the warka pan. Never let the water run dry.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and beat in the additional 2 tablespoons water. The dough should look glossy and smooth.
- Wash and dry your hands, set a large plate beside you with four pieces of greaseproof paper on top.
- Briefly beat the warka one more time (this will momentarily strengthen the gluten and make it easier to handle).
- Pull off a piece of dough the size of a golf ball in your hand, and take a little time to get the feel of controlling it in the palm of your hand.
- Dab the dough on to the hot warka pan and keep dabbing until you have formed a complete circle with no gaps, of about 25cm in diameter.
- With the other hand, peel off the pastry and place on a plate in between the paper.
- There is enough dough for the first two or three sheets to be testers.
- Continue until you have eight proper sheets.
- Every now and then give your arm a rest before beating the warka dough and picking up a fresh piece.
- You can make warka a few hours in advance, but be sure to wrap the plate in clingfilm, as it can dry out and crack.