“I love the Moroccan m’hanncha (snake). It’s a wonderful way to wrap up gorgeous smashed veg and grains to make a beautiful-looking dinner, while also adding amazing texture – crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. Yum. ”
Cook the pearl barley according to the packet instructions, then drain.
Wash the squash, then carefully cut it in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Peel the onions and garlic, and deseed the peppers. Chop the squash, onions and peppers into 1cm dice. Finely chop the garlic with the coriander stalks (reserving the leaves).
Place it all in a pan on a medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons of oil, the chilli flakes, fennel and cumin seeds, and the ground coriander. Sweat with a lid on for 25 to 30 minutes, or until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally.
Destone the dates and finely chop the flesh with the apricots and coriander leaves. Fold into the veg pan with the drained pearl barley, squeeze in the lemon juice, season to perfection, then leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
Lay out two clean damp tea towels on a large work surface, side-by-side, with the longest edges facing you. Working quickly but taking care, lay out 3 sheets of filo side-by-side with the short edges towards you, overlapping each one by 2.5cm and brushing between the overlaps with water.
Lightly brush the sheets with oil, place 3 filo sheets directly on top, then repeat with another 3 sheets. Save the remaining sheet for patching up.
As evenly as possible, spoon your filling in a line along the long edge closest to you. Brush the opposite long edge with a little oil.
Now, I’d recommend finding a friend to help you roll it up. Working slowly and carefully, use the tea towels to help you roll it up and away from you into a giant cigar, keeping it on the damp tea towel at all times. Roll it into a large pinwheel, working quickly but handling it gently to avoid too many cracks.
Gently slide it onto a large greased baking tray, and patch up any gaps, if needed. Brush all over with more oil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until gorgeous, crisp and golden.
Ten minutes before the end, smash and sprinkle over the pistachios and an extra pinch of each of the spices, if you like.
Serve with a super-light dusting of icing sugar. Delicious with all the usual trimmings, or served with a spiced tomato sauce.