The Dish: Moroccan melouza walnut cookies and chicken tagine from Sofi Corner Cafe

Thursday, May 16, 2024
The Dish: Moroccan melouza walnut cookies and chicken tagine from Sofi Corner Cafe
When Chef Soufiane Boutliliss opened Sofi Corner Cafe, there was one thing he knew had to be on the menu: his grandmother Rhimo's melouza cookies.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When Chef Soufiane Boutliliss opened Sofi Corner Cafe last August, there was one thing he knew had to be on the menu: his grandmother Rhimo's melouza cookies.

The cookies are a customer favorite and Sofi says they're not going to believe that he's sharing the secrets to this family recipe.

It's a hearty, gluten free walnut cookie and Sofi says this recipe is grandma's gift to us.

"On opening day, I made this cookie and everyone loved it," Sofi says. "Everyone asks me for this recipe."

The Dish: Moroccan melouza walnut cookies and chicken tagine from Sofi Corner Cafe

He says grandma is very famous in Morocco for this cookie.

"Everyone loved to go to her house just to have this cookie and she never gave her recipe!" he says.

But we got it! And we are so excited to make it.

The cookies are easy and quick to assemble.

We start with four eggs, then regular sugar, vanilla sugar, softened butter and apricot jam. You mix everything by hand, with your hands.

"My grandmother did it like this with her hands," Sofi explains. "She says it adds love to your food when you do this."

Love - that's the secret ingredient.

Next, we add the star ingredient to the cookie mixture: chopped walnuts.

"This is two pounds of walnuts," Sofi says. "My grandmother is very generous. She never makes anything small. She makes food for the whole neighborhood when she cooks."

Now, add some almond flour and knead it all together. Roll them and cover them in powdered sugar. Flatten the shape a bit and adorn each cookie with a walnut.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees and allow to cool before eating. Sofi suggests you serve them with Moroccan mint tea.

Bringing his traditional Moroccan family recipes to Philadelphia

That love from his family goes into every single handmade pastry, the homemade breads and the traditional Moroccan dishes Sofi serves at his cafe.

"All of this comes from my family," Sofi says. "My father is a chef, my grandmother is a chef. I was born into a chef family in Morocco."

Sofi calls his menu a mix of French and Moroccan cuisine.

He designed his authentic, stylish space on Locust Street with one vibe in mind.

"When you come here, you feel like you are at your friend's house," he says. "Just showing up for coffee. You come and you have an experience."

That experience includes the tagines he's famous for. That's meat or fish cooked in a tagine, a Moroccan earthenware pot.

When we sat down in his cafe to enjoy the lemon chicken tagine together, the meal marked a first for Sofi.

"This is the first time I sat at one of my tables to eat," he says. "I feel so happy."

From his native Morocco to Paris to New York City, Sofi says there's something special about Philadelphia.

"When I came to Philly, I felt I was at home. I am home here," he says.

Stay in Sofi's cafe long enough and you'll truly learn about his Moroccan culture and customs.

"In Morocco, everyone eats with their hands," he says.

First, you sanitize them with jasmine water and then dig in! We suggest you come hungry, and early, because he sells out of things quickly.

And when you leave, you will feel like family.

"I'm so happy to share my food with you," he says.

Moroccan melouza walnut cookie Recipe


  • 2 pounds of ground walnuts

  • 4 eggs

  • 340 grams of sugar

  • 150 grams almond flour

  • 14 grams of vanilla sugar

  • 7 grams of baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon of butter, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon of orange or apricot jam

  • Powdered sugar


1. Preheat your oven to 350F (175C).

2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, eggs, vanilla sugar, baking powder, almond flour, butter, and jam until well combined.

3. Shape the mixture into small balls.

4. Roll each ball in powdered sugar until fully coated.

5. Place the sugar-coated balls on a baking sheet.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

7. Let the cookies cool before serving.


Chicken Tagine Recipe


  • 2 chicken thighs

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • A handful of grapes

  • Parsley, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • A pinch of saffron

  • 1 preserved lemon, chopped


1. In a large pot or tagine, heat a little oil over medium heat.

2. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft.

3. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned on all sides.

4. Add the grapes, parsley, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and saffron to the pot.

5. Stir in the preserved lemon.

6. Cover the pot and let it simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

7. Do not add salt, as the preserved lemon is already salty.

Serve your chicken tagine hot and enjoy!