Its this North African country, where the motto is "God ,Nation, King" ...the fourth should be "food" as they have a great culinary history and tradition, result of centuries-long interaction with the outside world. The cuisine of Morocco is an eclectic mix of Berber, Spanish, Corsican, Portuguese, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, African cuisines and what-have-you..
In contemporary times, we cannot forget the reference to Casablanca , the largest city in Morocco - immortalised by the classic movie of the same name...who can forget brooding,cynical Humphrey Bogart muttering “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”...
And now, before I start reciting all the lines from the movie...let me tell you where this culinary journey took me..
First of all I found that Moroccan cuisine is very reliant on spices , all variety of them...they have this spice mixture called Harissa which is used as condiment or side with most meals..you can find it at speciality stores or make it with this simple recipe :
Soak 10 Dry Red Chilli's in a cup of warm water for about 2 whole hour's. Peel 6 Garlic Pod's and set aside. Grind the Red Chilli's, Garlic, 1 tsp of Cumin Powder, 1 tsp of Corriander Powder and 2 tbsp of Olive Oil. Grind them into thick paste.
I couldnt resist trying the Tajine/Tagine...Its packed with 7 vegetables or more (7 being an auspicious number) , myriad spices and looked like it would be a great healthy and nutritional dish to try..
Chickpea Tagine :
1 onion chopped
2 inch leek chopped
1 carrot chopped to squares
1 zucchini chopped in sq
1/2 eggplant chopped in sq
2-3 medium potatoes chopped in sq
1 cup chickpeas cooked/canned
2 tbsp harissa
1 inch cinnamon stick
4-5 black peppers
2 whole bay leaves
1 pinch saffron [optional]
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and add onion and leek and heat till transparent. Add spices - black pepper, cinnamon, bay leaves. Add harissa and stir well with some water. Add potatoes and carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add water incrementally as needed. Add all other vegetables in cooking time sequence. Add chickpeas and tomatoes at the end and cook for another 5-10 mins. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
Serve over couscous with another dollop of harissa by the side.
Tagine is traditionally hot and sweet but DH likes his spicy left alone ,so I omitted that, Inspite of which this turned out to be such a delicious combination of vegetables in a very fragrant aroma of spices...and the hot from harissa....it was perfect !
Ha..I almost forgot to tell ....last week when I was checking for some recipes from Morocco I stumbled across this Moroccan Cafe out here and I dragged DH there ..We had Harira soup, Lentil soup and ordered the couscous with 7 veggies but they didnt have it...and that was good cos the soups were very heavy ..the mint tea was very nice too, though too hot in the then hot weather ...and we packed some moroccon pastries on our way back...One of which was kaab el ghzal ("gazelle's horns"), which is a pastry stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar.
While making the bakewell tart , I had some leftover pie dough and almond meal and it instantly reminded me of this.
You can call me resourceful ;)
kaab el ghzal:
Almond filling :
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/4 tsp cinammon powder
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon orange water or 2 tablespoon water with 2 drops of vanilla
Mix all this by hand and form dough . The heat from the hands releases the oil from almond so you have to mix this for a good 10 minutes. Pinch the dough in small balls and elongate and pinch the ends.
Roll a regular pie dough and place the almond horns at equal distance on one side. Pull up the other side and press between the filling horns. Cut to the ends. Bake on 350F till 20 mins or until they turn golden.
This was done at the tail end of a work day and bakewell tart making , so the pics are not so good and the shapes not so fine..but the taste was pretty good and reminded me of this karnaji ,that is an Indian sweet speciality made during Diwali .
All in all , this was a great experience and as they say in Morocco - bssah’ha!—to your health!