Posts Tagged With: morocco

Moroccan Bessara with Harissa Oil – Nourishing Fava Bean Soup/Dip

 

Bessara – Nourishing Moroccan Soup

We’re getting 2018 started with a simple and nourishing dish from Morocco, a country I love and where I first tried this delicious soup.  We’re not long back from Spain, where we sit on beaches looking towards North Africa.  A tenuous link, but its awesome to be back here and blogging!!  After our little break in the sun, we’re topped up with fresh ideas for 2018.

This comforting bowl is ideal for new year, so easy and light, nutritious and flavourful.  It’s also inexpensive and the basic soup only has a handful of ingredients.  It also happens uses fava beans, which as you might know, were one of my favourite things about 2017.  Couldn’t get enough of them.  You can thin this out, or serve it as a dip.  Either way, it’s a dish I cook all the time, a great staple and something I’ve been meaning to put on here for years.  Finally, Bessara!

MOROCCAN MEALS

My favourite memories of Bessara was around 15 years ago (food lives long in my memory) when I was travelling all over Morocco and eventually found a little home in the Rif Mountains.  It was chilly, icy winds whistling through all the buildings, my favourite cafe’s door kept blowing off and was missing a window (but the mint and gunpowder tea and tunes were bang on).  I was lucky to be staying right beside the Hamam (steam baths), which was hewn from a hillside, so the whole area was warmed by the huge wood fires which heated the water.  The same wood fires where people would bring their clay pots of food to be cooked.  Great system there, plus the Hamas are the perfect place to meet people, like a pub really, without the booze and with the heating turned up to Gas Mark 2.  Oh, and the clientele are mostly naked.

Every morning I met some friends and went for Bessara, it makes for a lovely breakfast, and we sat on little rickety benches with all the djellaba wearing locals and morose Mohammed (cook and propietor) sat before two giant vats of bubbling Bessara.  His joint was basically a corrugated steel roof between two wonky buildings, but it was always buzzing and cosy.  It’s a warming soup in more ways than one.  Mohammed’s Bessara was very cheap and served without glee but with fragrant local olive oil and small bowl of fresh cumin and salt on the tables.

The bread man would occasionally whistle past on his push bike and we’d score some fresh bread straight from the bakery, that flat Moroccan bread that you may have tried.  If you’re from the North East, it’s basically stottie cake (more stottie here).  I’ve never been able to find out if there is any relation between the two, my romantic side which easily eclipses any of my other sides, says that yes.  There is.  In the middle ages some sailors from Seaham were blown of course and found themselves sahara bound.  Or maybe it was the crusades?  Either way, great bread and highly recommended with this soup.

PUNCHY DRIZZLE

I love harissa, especially with traditional Moroccan food, so I’ve come up with a zesty and punchy little oil to drizzle over the soup.  You’ll have a little bit leftover no doubt, but I love dipping bread into it to finish it off.  Just keep leftovers sealed in a fridge for a few days.  It’s perfect I think after one day in the fridge, all the spices and flavours settle and mingle.

LOVE THY FAVA

I have some organic Hodmedod split fava beans, they actually have a Bessara recipe on their site!  Great minds!!  Hodmedods were kind enough to send me some of their range, which is awesome, so you’ll be hearing from them more this year.  We love to give shouts out to producers who are doing brilliant things in enlightened ways.  Hodmedods are all about incredible pulses basically and are bringing back many traditional British varieties.  Fava beans are actually traditional in the UK, but I think more of them as a Middle Eastern/ North African ingredient.  We have used them to make traditional Egyptian Falafels (Ta’amia) in the past and they make a delicious hummus.

So a big shukran to Mohamed the mirthless in the Rif Mountains for warming my belly each morning with this classic soup, I wrote his recipe down one day, but it got lost along the way, I’m sure this is a reasonable attempt.  Proper mountain Bessara.  Travelling around Morocco changed my life, my world view and my feelings about stottie cake.  Bismillah!

 

Recipe Notes

By adding 750ml of hot water to the finished Bessara, you’ll have a soup.  As the soup cools, it thickens.

My favourite garnish for this soup is the harissa oil and black olives, maybe a sprinke of dried mint.  Toasted almonds are tasty too, as is fresh mint and you might like a lemon wedge on the scene…..the soup is really like a blank canvas for flavours, simply delicious but easily embellished.

If you are using split fava beans, there is no need to soak them beforehand.

Stirring a few handfuls of greens into this soup just before serving will be delicious and add a health twist and different texture, try spinach, chopped kale or spring greens.

 

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One of my favourite simple Moroccan dishes

Moroccan Bessara Soup with Harissa Oil 

The Bits – For 4 bowls

400g dried fava beans (split broad beans)

6 garlic cloves (peeled and finely sliced)

1.5 ltrs water

2 tbs cumin seeds

1 tbs paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lemon (juice)

Sea salt (to taste)

 

Garnish (optional)

2 handfuls nice black olives (destoned) or toasted almonds (roughly chopped)

Sprinkles dried mint or chilli powder

Extra virgin olive oil (if not using the Harissa oil)

Fresh coriander (chopped)

 

Harissa Oil

The Bits – For one small bowlful

1-2 tbs harissa paste (how hot do you like it?!)

1/2 teas cumin seeds

1 teas coriander seeds

1/2 teas dried mint

1 garlic clove (peeled and crushed)

100ml olive oil

1 lemon (juice)

½ teas sea salt

 

Do It

Rinse the beans well in a colander with cold water.  Place in a large saucepan and cover with 1.5 ltrs of cold water, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and place a lid on.  Leave to cook for around 45 minutes, until soft, stirring occasionally.

Place all the ingredients for the Harissa Oil in a blender and blitz until smooth.  Check the seasoning.

When the beans are about cooked, grab a small frying pan and warm on a medium heat, add your cumin seeds and toast them for a minute, tossing them gently in the pan.  They should begins to release their aroma and change colour slighty.  Place in a pestle and mortar and leave to cool a little, them grind them.  Enjoy the smell!  Taste a smidgen, if they are very bitter, they’re burnt, give them another try.  It’s easily done!

In the same frying pan, add the oil and then the garlic, fry until golden, should take a couple of minutes.  Add the cumin, garlic and paprika to the pan, stir in and simmer for a few minutes, then add the lemon juice and salt.  Check the seasoning, this soup will need a good amount of salt to bring the flavours out.  You might prefer it chunky, but when blended, this soup is velvety smooth.  I prefer it that way.  Use a stick blender.  It’s easiest.

Ladle the Bessara into bowls and top with olives, dried mint and harissa oil, or any of the other options above.  Best with flatbread.

 

Foodie Fact

Fava (very similar to Broad) beans are like all beans, they’re brilliant and protein powerhouses!  Nutritionally, they’ve no cholesterol or saturated fats, have plenty of fibre, vitamin K, B1 and B6, loads of minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, potassium and zinc, they even have some calcium.

Some tests have even claimed that fava beans can help with depression, they contain dopamine.

 

 

Categories: Budget, gluten-free, healthy, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Side Dish, Soups, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Chermoula – Vibrant North African BBQ Saviour

Flamegrilled Vegetables with Chermoula (Recipe from Peace and Parsnips)

Flame-grilled Vegetables with Chermoula (Recipe from Peace and Parsnips)

Its that time of year when we dust of the BBQ and get things fired up.  A major part of BBQ season is what we choose to lather on our lovely smoky, charred dishes.  Something that can enliven and surprise, compliment and cut through all those powerful flavours.  Chermoula is a zesty, vibrant thing that compliments BBQ food perfectly.  A marinade/ sauce from Northern Africa, I first encountered it in Morocco and couldn’t quite believe what was happening in my mouth!  Its so full of citrus, herby freshness; the perfect antidote to the richness of a BBQ feast.

I think chermoula goes well with anything, it can light up a veggie tagine for example, especially if its made with squash or dried fruits.  The sweetness, with the zingy chermoula is a treat.  It can be stirred into warm Moroccan style grain salad made with cous cous/ millet et al and traditionally is used as a marinade.  Cover some tofu or tempeh in chermoula and leave overnight in a fridge and let this magic green sauce do its work.  I love things that look as good as they taste and Chermoula adds a splash of life to any plate.

TO PESTLE OR TO PROCESS?

I like to use a pestle and mortar when I can.  Its such a lovely piece of kit and there is something very wholesome about grinding your own spice mixes and condiments.  Yes, its a bit more elbow action than a food processor, but I have a sneaking suspicion that good food was not meant to be easy or convenient.  Sometimes, it takes a bit of work and is always rewarding.  If you are making a lot of chermoula, do it in batches, an overfilled pestle and mortar is not a pretty site (as it splashes all over your lovely kitchen counter like a Jackson Pollock painting).  I’d recommend popping it on a folded kitchen towel or something like that, this stops the P+M scooting around the place.  Also, food processor is a name that I struggle with.  It sounds a little industrial for my liking.  I like ‘whizzer’ or ‘blitzer’.

Here is the recipe from ‘Peace and Parsnips’ where I combine Chermoula with Flame-grilled Veggies (see below, I serve this dish regularly at Trigonos) and Raw Cashew Hummus, ideally all wrapped cosily in a warm flat bread.

Down at Trigonos right now, we have a heap of coriander coming from the poly-tunnels.  Along with a whole host of other herbs.  I am using them up in dressings and sauces like chermoula, the picture below contains more ‘erb than normal.  You can really play around with it, a thick chermoula is a delight if you are lucky enough to have a heap of coriander.

Chermoula!  North Afircas answer to a tasty BBQ

Chermoula! North Afircas answer to a tasty BBQ

The Bits – 1 small bowlful

1 teas coriander seeds (1/2 teas ground coriander)

1 teas cumin seeds (1/2 teas ground cumin)

100g fresh coriander

50g fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic (crushed)

2 tbs lemon juice

2 teas lemon zest

8 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Salt (as needed)

Toasting your own spices means so much more aroma and enjoyment!

Toasting your own spices means so much more aroma and enjoyment!

Do It

Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small frying pan on a medium high heat for about a minute (they will pop).  Keep them moving and make sure they don’t burn or they will become bitter.  Tip the seeds into a pestle and mortar and grind them down into a powder.  Now add all the ingredients (except the oil) and continue pounding and stirring, then drizzle in the oil.  The chermoula should resemble a thin sauce, so add more oil if needed.  Put in a bowl and set aside.

If you don’t have a pestle and mortar and are using pre-ground spices, blending the ingredients together in a food processor/ blender is fine.  Just drizzle the oil in , as above, until you get the desired consistency.

Gorgeous peppers getting a griddling

Gorgeous peppers getting a good griddling

Serve

See above, with an array of vegetables or use liberally as a marinade for the perfect BBQ!

Foodie Fact

Coriander (or Cilantro) is a beautiful plant, filled with amazing nutritional properties.  There are  many different types of coriander and at Trigonos, Judy grows a very small leafed, but intense coriander, which looks a lot like dill.  It’s a delight to cook with and sets this particular chermoula alight!

Coriander seeds are a great source of iron.  They also have good amounts of vitamin C, copper and plenty of dietary fibre.  There are even some

Categories: Dressings, Healthy Eating, photography, Recipes, Sauces, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Radio Tarifa Tagine

Tarifan Vegetable Tagine

Tarifan Vegetable Tagine

Tarifa is one of the windiest towns in the world, home to windsurfers and a whole host of eccentric folk (apparently the relentless wind sends people mad!)  Most places in Spain have three winds, Tarifa has five!  It is located directly across the med from Tangiers, an equally nutty Moroccan town.

Tarifa has long been regarded as a great example of the merging of all things Hispanic and African, not to mention, there is an awesome band named Radio Tarifa who rock our worlds (see below), they’re also a mix of Moroccan, flamenco and other beats. Really when you get down to this coastline, cultural borders blur into one hectic mix of all things med. There is an ancient feel in the air around here, Romans, Greeks, Punics, Carthagens…… it makes sense that people who want to live in such beautiful climes and always have done.

I learnt to make good cous cous and tagine on the open fires and portable gas stoves of Morocco, in garages, date plantations and even the odd oasis. Moroccans are like Italians when it comes to their cooking, namely, don’t mess with it brother!!!! Keep it the way it has always been and momma knows best et al. Which is cool, makes things easier.  I cooked a tagine in the Atlas Mountains and added beetroot to the mix and then spent the rest of the evening in some form of food induced exile.  They turned their nose up at my meddling with the ancient, alchemical laws of the tagine.  Seems I haven’t quite learnt my lesson!

I have had a good meddle here. I love to add a little tahini to the mix to add some richness and paprika is a superb local delicacy that creeps into most things I cook over here on the Costa Calida.  The rest is all fine, fresh, fresh, med veg and fistfuls of cumin from the markets of Marrakech to get things flowing in the right direction.

The secret here is a thick and rich sauce to start with and gently steaming the other veggies over that. This makes this dish brilliantly tasty and the veg chunks are cooked until perfectly tender and succulent.  The nature of tagine recipes is wide and uber-complex, but this one is straight forward and mighty fine.  A tagine is just the pot’s name really, it’s unique conical shape, but it’s what goes into it that matters.

I serve this with fluffy cous cous in a tagine dish, there is  plenty of gorgeous sauce to make the cous cous nice and moist. My tagine dish has a very sticky base, otherwise I would cook the sauce in the tagine base and then whack the lid on. That would be the authentic route, but I have used a pan here to make this easier and avoiding sticky situatioGod, I love Morocco, the dunes of the Sahara and the peaks of the Rif mountains are just a hop, skip and ferry away from here and it is calling my name in capital letters.  It’s such a massive empty place, full of amazing people and tasty treats.  This tagine takes me back……

Tarifan Vegetable Tagine

Tarifan Vegetable Tagine

The Bits

2 med onions (finely sliced), 6 cloves garlic (finely chopped), 3 inch cube of ginger (finely chopped), 5 big fat plum tomatoes (chopped rough), 1 courgette, 1 large red pepper, ½ large butternut squash, 4 large carrots (all veg chopped into large chunks), 4 teas ground cumin, 3 teas paprika, 1 teas cinnamon, 1 teas ground coriander, ½ handful roughly chopped dried apricots, 6 dates (finely chopped), 1 heaped tbs dark tahini (dark has a more intense flavour, but regular tahini is fine), 2 cups good veg stock, s + p to taste
350g cous cous (for three), 1 pint good veg stock, 1 teas cumin seeds,

Do It

Get a nice good glug of olive oil hot (high heat here) in a large saucepan, pop your onions in and cook until soft and going golden, add your garlic and ginger and your spices. Stir well and often, get it all combined nicely, then add your chopped tomatoes and stir in. It should all be smelling amazing and cooking down well. Taste and adjust accordingly. When the tomatoes have all broken down, 5-10 minutes, add all of your other veggies, stock and dried fruit stir in a little. Stick a lid on it and leave for 30 minutes to cook slowly, no peeking!

When the lid is taken off, you’ll have a gorgeous tagine waiting with plenty of rich sauce to be soaked up by the cous cous.

To cook your cous cous, warm a pan with a little oil and toast your cumin seeds for one minute, then pour in your cous cous and stir well, add some s+p to taste and pour in some freshly boiled water (straight from the kettle is good).

Cover the cous cous with water, 2cm above and then cover tightly with a lod and leave for 20 minutes to cook off the heat. When you lift the lid, fluff the cous cous well with a fork and add a little oil if it needs a little help.

Puerto Mazarron Sunset

Puerto Mazarron Sunset

Serve

As warm as you can, in a tagine dish preferably. Lay out plenty of cous cous on the base, spoon over plenty of sauce and then scoop on your vegetable tagine. Cover with more sauce and a good drizzle of great olive oil.

We like to eat out of the tagine dish in a communal fashion, pop it in the middle of the table and enjoy with your nearest and dearest, just like in Morocco. We had ours with hummus or a nice garlic yoghurt.

At the shepherds house - Bolunuevo, Mazarron

At the shepherds house – Bolunuevo, Mazarron

Foodie Fact

We use tahini in many ways, but here it adds a creamy richness to the tagine without the use of our old friends butter/ cream and the dairy gang, with the added advantage of awesome health benefits and easy digestions.  Tahini is full of vitamin B’s, essential for keeping the body ticking over, enhancing metabolism and sorting the immune system out.

Tahini is also rich in calcium and a small blob can contain up to 35% of your required daily intake.  Many people believe that tahini boasts the highest levels of calcium in any food!

Here’s the soundtrack to our Tarifan Tagine, the incredible Radio Tarifa:

Categories: Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Berber Date Tagine with Orange ‘Kech Pilaff

Berber Man

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……

Blanched Cauliflower

The Bits

Berber Tagine
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.

Do It
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….)

Foodie Fact

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.

Boozie Bit

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.

Categories: Dinner, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment