Memories of Afternoons Past and Harcha Recipe
Our afternoons were long and chatty, with topics ranging from empty gossip, to joyous chants, to heated political contentions. We laughed, we danced, we bestowed unsolicited advice upon one another. Such were our afternoons as a family in Morocco. My most vivid memory of them is in Temara where nieces, nephews, aunts and cousins all gathered in Aunt Habiba’s miniscule grange.
Our afternoon conversations were interrupted only by meals, sometimes by a collective walk outside to soak up the Atlantic breeze. Tea time was the most crucial moment of the afternoon, the climax of our enjoyment. It came around four o’clock, right after the adults paused to pray the Asr prayer, and the children took advantage of the lack of supervision to undertake whatever brief mischief they could, enjoying the sweetness of those otherwise forbidden pleasures such as sneaking out to the rooftop terrace, rummaging through the drawers and cabinets for little treasures, or annoying the life out of the chickens in the barn.
When tea time finally arrived, harcha was an expected treat. These galettes whose name means “coarse” were a habitual tea accompaniment, served with apricot jam at times, honey or a cheese spread others. My recipe of harcha is inauthentically made with cornmeal which yields very similar results to the original. For a more faithful preparation, use medium or fine semolina instead.
2 cups fine cornmeal (or semolina-non GF)
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ stick (6 tbsps) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup warm milk or buttermilk
Combine the dry ingredients (first four) together in a large mixing bowl.
Work the butter into the cornmeal or semolina with your fingers until the mixture is sandy.
Mix in the buttermilk or milk to moisten the cornmeal or semolina. Form a ball and let it soak up the liquid for 5 minutes.
Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat.
Spread the mixture on a flat surface sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina, about ½-inch thick. Cut circles using a cup or biscuit cutter. Carefully transfer the harcha discs to the skillet using a spatula. Cook the harcha 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until browned.
Serve warm with honey or jam and warm tea.