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Posts Tagged ‘Morocco’

Made in Morocco

Today has been a great day in the kitchen. I love Moroccan food – something about the spices, the combination of sweet and savoury and the delicious ingredients. James and I first went to Morocco in 1999 in order to avoid the whole millenium hoo-ha. We spent 2 weeks on a tour starting in Casablanca and ending in Marrakech. What an amazing country! At the time James and I were not particularly ‘foodie’ orientated but memories of the food on that trip lingered. Although there is a small confession to be made here…….by the time we hit Marrakech we were all a bit ‘couscous and tagined out’ (I don’t think that would happen these days!) and a group of us jumped in a cab and shouted those words that need no translation …..’McDONALDS!’. It’s a shameful thing to admit!!!

We returned to Marrakech in 2006, along with Amy & Daz and Mum, to celebrate the big 3-0!! and this time we were far more appreciative of the food on offer. A trip to Marrakech would never be complete without a dinner in the Djemaa El Fna (which is the square & market place in Marrakech’s medina quarter) – it’s a crazy place and walking around is an experience and a half. Everyone wants your business. You either love it or hate it, but regardless it is an assault on all your senses and there is a dazzling array on offer. For the more adventurous visitors (and many locals!) there are cooked goats heads ready to be split open for the brains inside (sorry, am just not brave enough for this!), and then there are delicious juicy kebabs and succulent meat everywhere you look, served with breads and salads. It’s a must do culinary experience! During the day it is full of carts selling fresh dates, figs, pistachios, almonds..and then there are the orange juice carts. We ended up visiting the same vendor every day and savoured our glass of OJ which helped kick start another day in the souks.

Marrakech is also full of top class restaurants and after a bit of research we booked Dar Moha for my 30th dinner. It has the most beautiful setting around a candlelight pool – just perfect for a light balmy evening. The food is a step away from the traditional Moroccan fare and has a modern twist – delicate and delicious.

So, hopefully from the above you can tell that I enjoy some Moroccan grub!! As I had some time this afternoon I decided it was time to crack out the tagine pot. Perusing the cookbook shelf I pulled out Julie LeClerc’s (fellow Kiwi) Made in Morocco and started thumbing through.

After having a bit of a clear out in the cupboards this week I found we have about 3 bags of red lentils and so decided to make the quick Spiced Split Lentil Soup. James then jumped in and decided that bread was required and so he quickly knocked up Barley Bread to accompany.

The soup as so simple and although there is a consider amount of spice required in the Simple Moroccan Spice I did cheat and use the mixed Moroccan spice that I picked up in the souk in Marrakech. Considering the length of time I have had it we were not surprised to learn it may have lost some of its strength and pungency and unfortunately this meant that the soup was nutritious and filling but a bit bland. Next time I will make up a batch of JLC’s Simple Moroccan Spice and ditch my authentic but out of date spice blend! Not a great choice for Izzy though as she has proved to be averse to onions and tomatoes. We keep trying although the gag reflex kicks in even when we sneak it onto the spoon unnoticed!

Spiced Split Lentil Soup (courtesy of Made in Morocco – Julie LeClerc)

Ingredients:-

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions, finely diced

2 Tbsp Simple Moroccan Spice blend (recipe to follow)

2 x 400g cans choppped tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock (or substitute vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)

1 cup split red lentils

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or coriander

Heat a large saucepan, add oil and cook onions for 3-4 minutes to soften but not colour. Add spice blend and cook for 1 minute to release essential spice flavours.

Add tomatoes, stock or water and red lentils and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Add more water if the mixture becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley or coriander as preferred.

Simple Moroccan Spice blend

2 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger and cinnamon.

1 tsp each of white pepper and turmeric

14 tsp each of chilli powder and ground nutmeg

Combine all spices and store in a sealed jar.

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Barley Bread (also courtesy of Made in Morocco – Julie LeClerc)

Ingredients:-

1/2 cup warm water

3 teaspoons active dried yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or barley flour if available)

1 cup strong flour

1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup tepid water

extra flour for kneading

Place warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle with yeast and then sugar. Set aside in a warm place to activate for 5-10 minutes (when activated the mixture will be frothy).

Place the flours and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the frothy yeast mixture, oil and tepid water and mix to form a firm dough. Turn dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Divide dough into two and shape each portion into a large flat disc. place on a lightly floured oven tray and cover with a clean cloth. Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until when dimpled with a fingerprint the dough returns to its former shape.

Preheat oven to 200C. Bake for 15 mins or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

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Onto the main course……..

Tagine of Chicken with Prunes & Almonds (courtesy again of Made in Morocco – Julie LeClerc)

Ingredients:-

1.4kg free-range chicken, cut into 8 portions (I used about 1.1kg of chicken thighs and drumsticks)

2 onions, tickly sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crusshed

1 tsp each of ground cinnamon and ground ginger

1 cup pitted prunes

1 cup green olives

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1/4 cup white wine viegar

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Place chicken portions in a tagine or large casserole. Scatter over remaining ingredients in the order listed, except the parsley, and season with salt & pepper.

Cover the pan and bring the liquid to the boil, then turn down the heat to simmer for 1 1/2 hours, turning the chicken pieces once or twice, until the chicken tests cooked and the liquid is much reduced, The cooking can alternatively be done in an oven heated to 180C.

Adjust seasoning of sauce if necessary before serving. Serve scattered with parsley.

So very easy!! The only problem I encountered was that my tagine pot was a bit small and I ended with chicken stock flooding my stove top! Oh well, it’s only a bit of mess!

The perfect accompaniment to tagine must be couscous – a perfect partnership. My couscous has always been a little hit and miss – sometimes fluffy and light and other times stodgy and lumpy. Tonight I took my time, googled it, checked recipes and think I finally came up with a, hopefully consistent, method.

Couscous should be prepared with 1 1/2 cups of water or chickenstock (or a combination) to 1 cup of couscous. Heat up ┬ásaucepan and melt a small knob of butter and then lightly stir in some chopped spring onions. After a minute or two I added the stock/water. Once it is almost boiling take it off the heat and pur into the bowl of couscous. Then cover with cling film (or glad wrap as we Kiwi’s call it) and leave to steam for about 10 mins. We had a couple of peppers and courgettes in the vege bin and so James grilled these on the BBQ and then chopped into small pieces while I toasted a handful of pine nuts. When the couscous has steamed then add some lemon juice and a small glug of extra virgin olive oil before fluffing up with a fork. I then added in the chopped veg and pine nuts and gave it a good stir.

Serve alongside the tagine.

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Overall, I think we can call tonight’s dinner a success! Even a partial success for Izzy – she devoured the chicken and couscous once the peppers and courgettes had been removed. Although I did bribe her to try a courgette so it’s a start. The prunes were a no go even with bribery on the table and trying to sell them as a big sultana once they had been cut up didn’t help. Olives are never a problem though – Izzy is mad for them!

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