While we are all suffering from matzah fatigue by the end of Passover, the Moroccan Jewish community is ablaze with excitement for Mimouna. Mimouna is a lively festival celebrated at sundown on the last day of Passover and spilling into the next day with picnics and open houses. Drums, bejeweled Moroccan garb and fez hats, high-pitched ululation and tables brimming with Moroccan sweets are some of the reasons you might try to wrestle an invitation to a Mimouna party out of someone.
Years ago Mimouna was pretty much celebrated only by the Moroccan Jewish community in Israel. Over the last couple of decades, it has gained such status that you might as well think of it as an Israeli national holiday. Mimouna parties even serve as lucrative pit stops for campaigning by local and nationally recognized politicians.
In The Book of Jewish Foods, Claudia Roden, one of my favorite Jewish cookbook authors, writes about Mimouna in Morocco: â€śThe whole community, in every city, held open house. It was also an occasion for the public demonstration of friendly relations between Jews and Muslims. Muslims would bring flowers, ears of grain, greens, honey, milk, bread and fresh butter to their Jewish friends. Those with whom Jews had deposited foods for the duration of the Passover week would bring them back then, and Jews would invite Muslims to partake of the Mimouna delicaciesâ€”something they also did throughout Passover.â€ť
My youngest sister is married to a Moroccan Israeli with a large extended family. Their Mimouna table is adorned with foods symbolizing prosperity, health and fertility, mostly a wide assortment of Moroccan sweets and pastries. Because Mimouna begins right when Passover ends and involves such a lavish table, many of the sweets are prepared ahead of time and are, in fact, kosher for Passover, such as marzipan, dried fruit concoctions and jams.
At the front and center of this confectionary abundance, however, is the mufleta (also spelled moufleta or moufletta), a thin yeasted pancake made of flour and yeast purchased as soon as Passover ends. In fact, when you mention Mimouna, mufleta comes to mind. They go hand in hand.
Making mufleta involves a unique Moroccan grandmothersâ€™ technique that has been practiced for centuries: the first pancake is fried on both sides, and subsequent pancakes are added on top of the first one in the pan, so that they are cooked all at once in a towering stack of a dozen, or even twenty, pancakes thatâ€™s flipped back and forth as each is added. Itâ€™s a great way to keep the pancakes warm. I mustered the courage to cook a stack of eight, but beyond that was a leap of faith. You can also cook and serve the pancakes one at a time, as my Israeli friend Shoshi, whose mother is Moroccan, doesâ€”as long as you serve them hot, fresh off the skillet or griddle, drenched or just drizzled with melted butter and honey.