Results tagged “Morocco”

Hubbub Cooks Moroccan dinner, Tues 15th Feb 2011

HUBBUB_STRAP_red.png‘Hubbub Cooks’ is a series of cooking classes I am running in collaboration with Hubbub - a fantastic little company that delivers top quality food from my local independent shops - butcher, fishmonger, cheesemonger, deli and more.  The classes are open to anyone, and will be for just eight people at a time so everyone will get plenty of action.  10% off if you book three classes!

Mediterranean series
We'll be cooking up delicious meals using the distinctive flavours and traditional techniques from countries around the Mediterranean where I have spent time on my travels researching the local culinary culture:  Morocco on 15th Feb, Turkey on 15th March and Italy on 17th May.  We'll use the best seasonal produce from my local shops, and classes will end in a convivial meal around the table with wine.

Smcouscouswinterveg0001.jpgSample Moroccan menu:
(the final menu will depend on ingredient availability and guests' preferences)

Goat’s cheese pastries with mint
Chicken, olive & preserved lemon tagine
Couscous aux sept legumes
Orange & pomegranate salad
Walnut cigars with mint tea

Date:  Tuesday 15th February 2011

Time:  10am - 2pm, repeated 6pm - 10pm

Location:  London N5 (Arsenal tube 2 mins walk)

Price:  £60 per person per class. 
10% off when you book three or more Hubbub Cooks classes. 

To book:  Email Hubbub
, call them on 020 7354 5511 or book online on their website

Herb jam

This is a Moroccan recipe, which I first learnt while working as an intern at Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse, in California.  ‘Herb jam’ is Paula Wolfert’s name for this delicious, savoury salad-cum-relish.  The recipe here is based on one of hers.
smherbjammaking0003.JPGThe key to success is patience.  You must wash vast quantities of greens and herbs, steam the greens, pound together the herbs and garlic, fry the olives and spices and then cook everything down together slowly in a wide pan until it resembles jam.  It’s a bit of a hassle, so I advise making a double batch (buy way more greens than you think it’s possible to cook) and freezing some.

smherbjammaking0004.JPG But when you taste it, perhaps on crostini or with warm Moroccan bread, you’ll realise why this is such a special recipe.  If you love greens, olives and lemony flavours, you’ll adore this. Everyone I have cooked it for has found it a revelation.

smherbjammaking0009.JPGFor the greens, use a mix of whatever you can find - spinach, chard, rocket, kale, sorrel, watercress, mustard greens, celery leaves, purslane…

Warka Workshop, Sat 8th May 2010

Places at this special North African cookery class are limited, so email me now if you're interested.  Cost is £80 per person, which will include a full day of hands-on cooking class and a delicious Moroccan lunch.  The venue is a beautiful kitchen in north London.

Smwarkamaking0001.JPG"But what's warka?" I hear you ask. 

It's North Africa's version of Greek filo pastry, or Turkish yufka.  But rather than being rolled, these paper-thin leaves of dough are made in the most unusual way.  Basically, you smear daubs of sticky dough over a super-hot metal plate, while trying not to burn your fingers.  We learnt all about it in Morocco - see a video clip of Khadija demonstrating her craft here.  (The video takes a few minutes to load, but have patience, it's worth it.)

Smbstila0001.JPGWarka is wonderfully versatile.  It can be used to wrap, roll and layer all kinds of sweet and savoury dishes, from little fried pastries ('briwat'), to large baked pigeon and almond pies (Morocco's famous 'pastilla'/'bstila'), and honey-drenched nut-filled tea-time treats. 

I have been lucky enough to meet a fantastic French chef called Sylvain Jamois.  Sylvain is the only person I know outside Morocco who can make warka.  Even in Morocco it's a dying skill.  Sylvain learnt how to make warka while working at Moro restaurant in London and remembers his Moroccan uncle using it to make delicious tuna and egg parcels. 

During the class Sylvain and I will teach you how to make warka from scratch and how to use it in several different North African recipes, including Moro's delicious crab brik - Tunisian spicy fried parcels.  We'll even show you how to cook live crabs and pick out the meat. 

smrawbriwats0001.JPGThis class will be a rare opportunity to try making warka, and bound to be an experience you'll remember, if never repeat!  Don't come in your best shoes...

And if you don't see yourself ever slaving over the warka hotplate again, don't worry.  Filo pastry works in all the recipes too, and we'll tell you where to buy ready-made warka in London. 

Smahmedtea0001.jpgThe class will end with a quick lesson in making Moroccan mint tea the traditional way, and of course sampling all your freshly made warka dishes.  There will be lots of recipes to take home.

For more information and to book your place, please email Anna.    

Persian cooking classes: Sep-Nov 2009

Jamileh.jpgSat 26th September, Sat 24th October and Sat 21st November 2009 - 12 noon to 6pm.

This autumn Jamileh Hinrichs, an expert in Persian cuisine, is offering a special series of cooking classes. Class sizes will be kept very small so everyone can join in and learn directly from Jamileh’s extensive culinary experience. You can book the whole course, or pick one date. Feel free to spread the word and invite friends and family.

Persian cuisine is one of the oldest and most sophisticated in the world. The sheer length and breath of the Old Persian Empire (encompassing today’s Iran and parts of Turkey, Greece, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt) has been the cradle of many distinct flavours and cooking ideas.

Argan oil

smarganland0001.jpgArgan oil is only produced in Morocco, the only country in which the ancient argan tree grows. 

The region from Essaouira to Agadir and inland, particularly the Souss Valley, is full of scrawny, wild, drought resistant argan trees. 

Families have collected, cracked and ground argan nuts for their own homemade oil for centuries.

Carrot soup with orange flower cream and spicy almonds

I’d say this soup was Moroccan, although I’ve never had it in Morocco.  In fact I’ve only ever had it in my own kitchen, after experimenting with several flavours which are often combined in Moroccan cuisine.  Travelling in Morocco we often found carrot combined with oranges and orange flower water for desserts.  Carrot is also mixed with cumin, garlic and parsley in the common cooked carrot salad you will get as a starter.  Almonds are found in many Moroccan dishes, sweet and savoury.  I think this soup works brilliantly, but I’m biased, so you’ll have to let me know…

Smcarrotorangecreamsoup.JPGFor an easier version, simply omit some or all garnishes, or make carrot soup with ginger as described below.  This simple carrot soup was one of the dishes I made while helping out chef Mona Talbott at the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome last June. 

The trick with any puréed carrot soup is the amount of time you cook the carrots; too short and the soup will not purée silky smooth; too long and you will lose the bright carrot colour and flavour.  So keep checking the carrots as they cook.

Down through the desert

mauritania, morocco
Smdesertsea0001.JPGNow that we'd come down from the Anti Atlas, we were looking at a thousand kilometres of very flat, very dry country between us and Senegal.  We were on the edge of the Sahara.  Only the edge, mind you - we're not stupid enough to drive through the middle.  And how dry can it really be when you're right next to the Atlantic?

Quite dry, as it turned out.  And quite flat, for most of it.  But that doesn't mean there was nothing interesting to eat, of course.  If you're in the desert, by the ocean, presumably people will be eating camel, and oysters.  Stands to reason.  The fermented sea slugs were more of a surprise ...

Barnaby gets the hump


Barnaby's not speaking to us. He's making a silent protest against our decision to eat camel brochettes today. (They were delicious, especially the chunks of hump fat.)

Normally he's quite keen to try new things. But back in Merzouga on the edge of the desert he met Leila, who carried him gracefully through the dunes. He rather liked Leila.


So when he saw huge hunks of camel meat hanging up outside the butchers' shops here in the Western Sahara, he was less than impressed.

Poor Barnaby. Maybe we'll try to cheer him up tonight with some local oysters. As far as we know he's never befriended any bivalves.

(Find out more about the popularity camel meat here.)

Morocco part 2: muffins and cheddar

Smriverburst0001.jpgBy the time we'd got over the highest part of the High Atlas, it had started to rain.  As we came down through the plains towards Marrakesh, we noticed some of the little streams were starting to overflow, and fields starting to look really quite damp.  Then we came round a corner and realised we weren't going any further - rivers here can overrun bridges at a moment's notice.  Sadly, after turning round, we realised we weren't going back either: the little overflowing streams of ten minutes ago had now become rivers overrunning bridges too.  We could sit and wait, or take the advice of the strangely animated man standing out in the rain, and take the little unmarked road out into the middle of nowhere ...

Smtaliouinekasbahdetail0001.JPGWe were trying to get to Marrakesh to stay with a Moroccan family: Jean-jacques Gérard had arranged for us to stay with his in-laws, and we were excited to see what real Moroccan home cooking was like.  They say that the best food here is in people's homes, and we'd started to suspect that there was something in this.  We'd realised that lots of the interesting stuff is done by women: this means it's usually done at home - so you don't come across it on the standard tourist trail.

For example, finding the women who know how to make couscous the old-fashioned way, rolling it by hand, had taken us quite a while (although we managed it in the end).  Our new mission was to find the women who make warka ...

Pistils at dawn

Smbarnabysaffron0001.jpgToday Barnaby got up before dawn, for the first time ever.  He'd heard there was 'vegetable gold' growing up in the mountains around Taliouine here in Morocco.  But all he could find were tiny green leaves growing in tiny square plots of earth.

Then Barnaby noticed a beautiful purple flower.  He thought it was lovely.

Some women who were up at dawn too told him to pick the flowers, carefully pull out the bright red three-pronged pistils, dry them and use them as a spice in his tagines and couscous dishes.  Great, thought Barnaby; he'd found the vegetable gold!

But then he found out you need to pick 150 flowers to make just 1g of spice.  And picking pistils out of crocuses with paws isn't easy.  No wonder saffron's the most expensive product in the world!

Oil, vinegar and phonological assimilation

morocco, spain

Some olives in Morocco. Although they could
just as easily be in Spain.

I'd always wondered why the oil and vinegar seemed to be labelled wrong in Spain.  If, like me, you're more familiar with Italian than Spanish, and you see two bottles on the table, one labelled "aceite", you'd be pretty sure that was the vinegar.  You'd be wrong, though - although admittedly you'd work it out pretty sharpish if you saw that the other one was labelled "vinagre".  Or just tasted it, I suppose.

The Italian aceto (vinegar) comes from the Latin acer meaning 'sharp' or 'sour', and that's where we get English words like acid and acetic from too.  (Even the word vinegar comes this way, in fact, via the French vin aigre or 'sour wine').  Similarly, the word for 'oil' seems to have Latin origins in most European languages - the Latin oleum gives us oglio, oil, Öl, huile and so on.  So why would Spanish (a Romance, i.e. Latin-based language) be so different, and where does their word for 'oil', aceite, come from?  Well, now that we've made it to Morocco, all becomes clear ...

Where the warka women work

Smbarnabywarka0001.jpgEver since he got to Morocco, Barnaby has been searching for warka.  He'd already learnt about yufka in Turkey and filo in Greece.  So he was excited to hear that in Morocco they also love incredibly thin pastry - but have a totally different way of making it!

But could he find it?  It kept turning up in food like the famous pastilla pie, and the little briwat pastries he saw all over the place.  But nobody seemed to sell it on its own, let alone actually make it themselves - so where did it come from?

Well, today he found out.  Hidden away in their homes down little alleyways in medinas all over the country, there are women like Khadija, sitting at big round hotplates, making warka to sell to restaurants and patisseries.

But rather than rolling the dough out like their Turkish cousins, they take handfuls of sloppy, sticky dough and smear it directly onto the hot metal.  Ouch! thought Barnaby - especially when he tried it himself.  It's not easy, particularly if your hands are furry.  Best leave it to the warka women ...

Real fast food

Smwarkahand0001.JPGWe came across warka being made the old-fashioned way by Khadija in her home in Essaouira.  Warka is the ultra-thin pastry used to make lots of classic Moroccan dishes, such as pastilla and briwat.  It looks a bit like the Turkish yufka and Greek filo, but is made completely differently: there's no rolling, just a lot of dangerous-looking hand-to-hotplate action. 

You might think this kind of manual cooking is the epitome of Slow Food, but it takes only seconds - at least, when you know how to do it.  Check out Khadija's technique, and just how fast she knocks them out, by clicking on the picture to watch the video:


Black and green and red all over

Smbarnabyoliveshower0001.jpgToday Barnaby was sitting under a tree in Morocco, minding his own business, when what should hit him but a shower of olives!  

Way back in May in Turkey, he'd seen little flower buds on the olive trees.  By the time he got to Greece the flowers were out.  Then in Italy he saw actual olives, although they were way too small and hard to eat.  Even in Spain in September, they looked ripe but weren't quite ready.  Finally, he thought - they're falling off!

Smbarnabyblackolives0001.JPGBut when he took a closer look he realised they weren't.  There were wrinkly black ones, shiny fat purple ones, and hard green ones - all coming from the same tree.  And in fact, there were ladders.  With people up them, pulling the olives off the branches by hand.  He thought maybe they were picking them too soon, but when he asked, they told him that it's best this way - they wanted all three colours to cure and to make tasty olive oil with.

And when he tasted one, he found out they're still too bitter to eat!  He's just going to have to wait until they're cured.

Olive harvest

Smoliveladies0001.JPGLast night we were staying at Le Bled, the organic farm which supplies the excellent Marrakesh restaurant Dar Moha.  As luck would have it, it was time for the olive harvest, so we spent the morning with the hard-working ladies around the olive trees - helping a bit, but mostly watching and learning from Ibrahim the head gardener how to pick and cure the various kinds of olives.  Here's a recording, of people chatting and olives plopping onto the ground.

Smolives0001.JPGClick here to listen.

Click here for more audio samples.

Morocco part 1: tea and crumpets

Smtaginetomatoes0001.JPGWe didn't quite know what to expect from Morocco - we'd heard very different and conflicting reports.  To some people, it's the home of one of the world's classic cuisines, and some of the best street food you'll find anywhere; to others, it's apparently an interminable round of underspiced vegetable tagines.  Which would we find?

We knew some things, of course - but there was a lot more we didn't know.  We knew they ate a lot of couscous here - but what is it actually made of, and how?  We had to make it our mission to find out.  (Our friend Robert told us we really didn't need to go all the way to Morocco for this - Smfesbeghrirplate0001.JPGjust buy a packet from Waitrose and pour boiling water on it.  And he has a point.  But it turned out there's a lot more to it than that).

And we knew they drank a lot of tea, too.  But we really weren't expecting the crumpets ...

The case of the Arabic aubergine


Preserved lemons


To make up for the absence of recipes this last month, here is a citrussy pair suited to the season, complete with nerdy citrussy facts.  I think preserving oranges and lemons is fun.  You might not, of course.  (The lemons are for Anthea, who assures me she's interested.)

preserved lemons.JPG

It's really easy to preserve your own lemons, and once you have a jar of them you'll find yourself adding them to tagines (eg chicken with lemon and olives), salsas (with shallots and fresh herbs, to go on grilled fish or meat), salads and couscous dishes...

Moroccan spiced leg of lamb

I love lamb.  It's not as popular here in America as it is in the UK, for some reason, but that hasn't stopped me subjecting most people I've met to a lamby dinner.  This dish has gone down particularly well, several times.  If you don't want to deal with a whole leg of lamb, you could buy some large cubes of lamb, preferably leg meat, make kebabs instead and call them 'brochettes' to sound fancy.

moroccanlambfest.jpgThe dish uses a vaguely Moroccan spice blend, which goes so well with lamb.  It’s definitely party food - buy a whole leg and then invite as many people as you think it will feed, plus a couple more.  Thanks go to Patrick, Marketa, Megan, Kevin, Lindsay, Andrew and Carole, among others, for being such active lamb-fest participants.


Culinary Anthropologist