The food we cook reflects our journey through life. It’s been a long old dusty road with some tasty nibbles along the way.
Much of my inspiration for recipes and greater experiences in general have taken place away from the shores of my island home, Britain. It is a grey Sunday today, in need of some sun and spice, so I re-visited Morocco for a classic(ish) tagine and pilaff meal.
I probably ate this alot when I was there, but due to the fog of time and the sheer influx of brilliant tagine in the streets of Marrakech (‘Kech) and beyond, I forget. One tasty tagine seemed to blend into another, until you have a very long tagine spell which many people would just call ‘travelling around Morocco’. Find out more about our passion for tagine pots here.
The Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco, desert and moutain folk. They have lived in Morocco since the beginning (whenever that was?!), well before the Arabs came and conquered North Africa. Berber is one of the official languages of this incredible land. Here’s some Nas El Ghiwane to get you in the mood:
We love the combination of spices and dates, there is bags of harmony in this dish with the lovely flavours of coriander and mint to finish things off.
You may use tinned tomatoes, but we prefer fresh. The orange is an addition that is not normally used in Morocco, but we’re a long way from Marrakech!
This is not cooked in a tagine (ours is stuck in Spain), but if you have one, what a great excuse to dust it off……
1 large cauliflower (leaves and all), 4 carrots, 1 big handful of stoned dates, 1 potato (for thickening sauce), 4 ripe tomatoes (chopped into small chunks, or 1 can of good organic toms), 1 ras el hanout (if you can’t get hold of this, I suggest a mix of your favourite spices. That’s all it is really), 1 teas turmeric, 1/2 teas chilli powder (be careful here!), 1/2 teas coriander seeds, 2 teas chopped ginger, glug EVOO (E.xtraV.irginO.live Oil), 1 onion (chopped), 3 cloves garlic (chopped), 1 handful of chopped coriander and 1 of chopped mint, 750 ml (a wine bottle size) of good veg stock, juice of 1 orange, s + p to taste.
Dates and spices
Orange ‘Kech Pilaff
Glug of EVO, 1 onion (chopped) handful of roasted almonds, 1/2 handful of currants, 1 teas ground cinnamon, 350g long grain rice (we normally prefer brown rice, tastier and better for your belly), zest 1 orange.
In a large pan, blanch your potato, cauliflower (use the leaves as well, they are very tasty) and carrots. Add potato first for 5 mins then add the rest for 2 mins. Drain the veg well and refresh with cold water. Place in a bowl and add spices and ginger, stir, leave covered for a couple of hours to infuse and get yummy. Save the water for stock, approx 1.5 litre needed for the rice and tagine. Just add an onion, a stick of celery, a carrot, some good stock powder, a bay leaf and some mixed herbs and slowly boil for 30 mins. Strain out all bits and thats it. A light veg stock.
Heat oil in a good heavy-based pan and gently fry you blanched veg for 5 mins, they should be getting nice and golden, then add onion and garlic and cook for another few minutes, add tomatoes dates and veg stock and simmer for 20 mins on low heat. Season here, add orange juice and stir in the coriander and mint. Do not over cook the veggies, they are not so good mushy.
Orange and Almond
For the Pilaff, heat oil in a pan and cook almonds for 5 mins then remove when golden. In the same oil add the onion and currants cook for 2 mins, add cinnamon then rice and coat all in all. Then pour over hot stock, cover tightly and cook for around 15 mins (depends on rice, remember no lifting the lid! Keep all that good steam in). Remove from heat and cool for 5 mins. Stir and lift with a fork before serving to seperate the rice and make it fluffy.
Finally, add the orange zest and almonds to the rice, stir again and serve with your tagine on your finest, colourful, platter (or just a plate).
The Berber Tagine
We Love It!
The crunch of the roasted almond, sweetness of the dates makes for a very rich sauce which is lifted by the zing of the orange, it all makes for a real taste sensation! This was one of those dishes that really surprises you with its deliciousness. This is now my favourite tagine recipe (until next time that is….)
Cauliflowers just don’t get the credit they deserve. They are full of good stuff.
Cauliflowers are full of vitamin C and manganese and a broad spectrum of anti-oxidants that give your system a real boost. It’s also anti-inflammatory, aids digestion (plenty of fibre here, like most of the cruciferous bunch i.e Kale, Brocolli etc).
The coarse green leaves, which we love to munch on, protect the centre of the cauliflower, reducing the chlorophyll and making it white.
This is not booze actually, but we had some chilled Clipper Tea with this. The ‘Green Tea with Echinecea’ variety, in a tall glass with plenty of ice, lemon and a dollop of honey. You could very easily add booze to this, I’m thinking vodka or maybe gin would be pleasant.