April 2009 Archives

Moroccan bread

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Bread is big in Morocco.  A meal is not complete without bread, and it is always fresh and always good.  You wouldn’t catch anyone mopping up their tagine with white sliced ‘plastic’ bread.  It has to be the real deal.

ChezAfida0007.JPGMany of my memories from Morocco involve bread: women at home kneeling on the floor kneading dough in a gsar (wide earthenware dish); rounds of dough rising underneath warm Smbreadoven0001.JPGsheepskins; children in the street ferrying loaves on planks of wood on their heads to and from the neighbourhood bakery; men baking thousands of loaves each day in huge wood-fired ovens, the smell wafting out onto the street; or women in mountain villages baking one at a time in  tiny home-made mud ovens at home; people arriving home with their freshly baked loaves for dinner, each marked with the family’s own signature gashes; the delicious combination of fresh bread and olive oil, enjoyed on arrival in many homes; the mother of the household tearing the warm disks into rough wedges and plonking them in front of each diner, shouting “eat, eat!” 

Moroccan beetroot salad

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‘Kemia’ - various salads, often made with cooked vegetables - are served at the start of a Moroccan meal, a bit like tapas in Spain or meze in Turkey.  They are always beautifully presented, to stimulate the appetite, and subtly spiced with classic Moroccan flavours such as mint, parsley, pepper, cumin, cinnamon and citrus.  The beauty for the cook is that you can prepare them all in advance and serve them at room temperature.
 
Smbeetkemia0001.JPGOf course, if you prefer you can roast the beetroots rather than boil them:  Place them, whole and unpeeled, in a roasting tin with a splash of olive oil and water.  Sprinkle with salt, cover tightly with foil and roast in a hot oven until tender throughout.  I feel this method works better with summer beetroot, and those at the start of the winter season.  These days boiling seems preferable.

This would probably never happen in Morocco, but I like to serve this salad over a bed of full-fat plain yoghurt.  The flavours go so well together, and the beetroot juices bleed into the yoghurt creating bright pink streaks and swirls.  

Moroccan carrot salad

morocco
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‘Kemia’ - various salads, often made with cooked vegetables - are served at the start of a Moroccan meal, a bit like tapas in Spain or meze in Turkey.  They are always beautifully presented, to stimulate the appetite, and subtly spiced with classic Moroccan flavours such as mint, parsley, pepper, cumin, cinnamon and citrus.  The beauty for the cook is that you can prepare them all in advance and serve them at room temperature.
 
Smcarrotkemia0002.JPGIn Morocco I noticed that cooks almost always scraped the cores out of the carrots once they were boiled.  It’s true that the core may be tougher and less tasty, but normally I don’t bother.  You might think the icing sugar is weird, but this is commonly used in Moroccan salads and the touch of sweetness works really well.  But you can of course leave it out if you wish.

Chicken, lemon and olive tagine

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This is such a great dish - you must try it!  In Morocco we probably had it at least five times.  My first tagine instructor was the lovely Fatna, who helps our friend Maggie in Tangiers.  Fatna likes to keep the olives separate and use them as a garnish, having cooked them with minced garlic, preserved lemon, parsley and coriander (cilantro).  I have simplified; one of the wonderful things about most tagines is that you can put everything in together at the start and then leave it to work its magic largely undisturbed.  It couldn’t be easier.

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Moroccan citrus salad

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While eating our way around Morocco we learned that most meals end with fruit.  In homes a big bowl would appear - huge red pomegranates, oranges, apples, grapes and bananas.  In restaurants we received plates of beautifully presented orange slices, dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar.  It certainly wasn’t hard to eat our five a day.  This ‘recipe’ is really a serving suggestion; quantities are up to you.  The fresh citrus taste is ideal after a filling Moroccan feast, and the mix of fruits looks really stunning on the plate.

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