Boulfaf is Morocco’s answer to a bacon-wrapped kebab and a much-loved variation of traditional liver brochettes known as kouah. To make boulfaf, seared and seasoned beef liver or sheep liver (kebda) is cut into cubes and wrapped with thin, lacy strips of caul fat which, once cooked, add delicious crispy texture and flavor. It’s this wrapping (Arabic verb: laffa) of the caul fat around the liver that led to the name of the dish, and it’s what distinguishes boulfaf from everyday kouah.
Boulfaf can be made any time of the year, but the kebabs are strongly associated with the first day of Eid al Adha (Eid al Kabir), when Moroccans traditionally cook the liver, heart and other offal which are on hand after the home slaughter of a sheep, or less commonly, a cow. The caul fat, which surrounds the animal’s internal organs, is acquired at this time as well.
As the liver and heart are usually the first organs ready to be grilled and served, boulfaf tends to be the first dish which is prepared after the sheep has met his end; it’s usually eaten between breakfast and lunch time, sometimes even while work from the slaughter continues. Considering the small quantity of liver in a single sheep, family members may end up with anywhere from one cube of boulfaf to a whole skewer (the lucky ones!) so it’s really considered something to tickle the taste buds. One has to be around at that very moment it’s served to grab a portion.
This isn’t necessarily the case when multiple sheep are involved, such as when extended families gather for eid or when a single family slaughters two sheep. My family continues the tradition of doing two sheep which means enough heart and liver will be on hand to make both kouah and boulfaf skewers. Most of the actual meat, however, is offered as sadaqa (charity) to families who can’t afford a sheep of their own.
As tempting as it may be to eat the liver right off the skewer, Moroccans are just as likely to make a sandwich out of the brochettes by stuffing the liver into Moroccan bread along with salad, onions and other fillers. For a truly traditional experience, enjoy the liver kebabs outdoors, offering Moroccan Mint Tea as a beverage.
If you want to reproduce the flavors of boulfaf but can’t find caul fat, you can still opt to make kouah; simply alternate every several cubes of liver with cubes of suet (fat from around the kidney). It takes just a few minutes to grill over the barbecue and it’s ready.
Moroccan Boulfaf Recipe - Liver Brochettes Wrapped in Caul Fat
- 2.2 lbs lamb or beef liver
- 1.1 lbs thin layer of sheep's caul fat, washed and dried
Prepare the Grill and Liver
- Preheat your grill. If you are using charcoal, make sure it burns until the coals are covered with grey ash and the flames have calmed down. This is the way to avoid burning the outer layer while inside hasn't cooked yet.
- Remove any membrane surrounding the liver. (There is usually more membrane on beef liver than sheep liver.)
- Wash the liver and pat dry. Slice it into 3/4" (2 cm) thick slabs or steaks.
- Once the grill is ready, sear the liver on each side for about 2 minutes. This step helps firm up the liver and gives it more flavor.
- Cut the seared liver into 3/4" (2 cm) cubes and toss them with half of the seasoning. Set aside.
Make the Boulfaf
- Cut the caul fat into thin strips about 3 1/2" x 3/4" (9 cm x 2 cm). Toss the strips of fat with the remaining seasoning. (optional)
- Roll a cube of seasoned liver with a single strip of caul fat and thread it onto the skewer, piercing the cube where the strip of caul fat overlaps. Repeat, allowing 6 to 8 wrapped cubes of liver per skewer.
- Grill the liver brochettes for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until the fat begins to turn transparent and the liver is fully cooked but tender to the touch. No red juice should be left.
Serve the Boulfaf
- Serve the boulfaf while hot from the grill with extra seasoning on the side. Mint tea is a traditional accompaniment; some say a hot beverage is necessary for proper digestion.
- Boulfaf can be eaten directly form the skewer or enjoyed as a sandwich, with or without the caul fat.
- If you find your strips of caul fat are breaking apart while working with them, dip them into a little water. This softens them and makes wrapping easier.
- It's preferable to work with thin strips of caul fat as they are easy to fold around the liver. The thicker strips can be cut into squares and inserted between cubes of liver if you are really not lucky in finding thin caul fat.