Photographer Rob Palmer and his French/Moroccan wife, Sophi,a present dishes from the heart of the country – and its people.
6 figs, halved lengthways
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp honey
1/4 cup/20g/3/4oz flaked almonds, lightly toasted
11/2 cups/420g/15oz natural yoghurt
1/3 cup/75g/21/2oz caster (superfine) sugar
2 tbsp water
Rob and I really enjoyed meeting Hassan, the shepherd near the Imilchil lakes, and we couldn’t refuse his invitation for tea the next morning. So we headed to the market and bought some local delicacies to take with us–dates, figs and honey. The combination of figs, lemon and honey with the praline labna is simply too good to be true.
For the praline labna, set a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl, then line the sieve with a piece of damp muslin. Spoon the yoghurt into the muslin-lined sieve, draw the muslin together over the yoghurt and twist to seal. Cover with a piece of plastic film and refrigerate for 12–24 hours or until all of the liquid has drained away from the yoghurt and the yoghurt becomes very thick. Keep the labna chilled.
Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper and sprinkle the almonds in a thin layer. Place the sugar and water in a small heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves then boil until the mixture turns a golden caramel colour around the edges of the pan. Carefully pour the hot caramel over the almonds, tilting the tray to spread the caramel as thinly as possible. Set aside at room temperature until set firm. Once set, break the praline into pieces and process in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Stir three-quarters of the praline crumbs through the labna and reserve the remaining praline crumbs for serving.
Preheat an oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Place the figs, cut side up, in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with the juice and honey and bake for 12–15 minutes or until the figs are just soft but not collapsed.
Spoon the warm figs and cooking juices onto serving plates, top with the praline labna and sprinkle with the reserved praline crumbs. Serve immediately.
500g/1lb 2oz minced (ground) beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
Sea salt flakes, to season
3/4 cup/180ml/6fl oz olive oil
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 small bunch coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground black pepper
1kg/2lb 4oz ripe tomatoes, coarsely grated
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup/125ml/4fl oz water
Fresh flat bread, to serve
Traditionally this dish would be served with eggs broken into it at the last moment, but chef Houssam’s flavoursome kefta (meatballs) are so good you can hold off on the egg if you like.
Combine the beef and onion in a large bowl. Season with salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours for the flavours to develop. Using slightly damp hands, roll walnut-sized pieces of the beef mixture into balls. Set aside.
Heat a large, deep frying pan over a high heat. Add the oil and once hot brown the meatballs, in batches, for 3 minutes each. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the herbs, spices, tomatoes, garlic and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10–12 minutes or until the sauce reduces slightly. Stir in the remaining herbs and browned meatballs. Allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
Crack the eggs into the pan and simmer for 3–5 minutes or until the whites have set and the yolks are still runny. Serve immediately with flat bread.
700g/1lb 9oz cauliflower, broken into small florets
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt flakes and black pepper, to season
1 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup unsalted almonds, roasted and chopped
Saffron currant dressing
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 tbsp boiling water
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp currants
Sea salt flakes and black pepper, to season
My auntie Cherifa is a painter. She loves mixing colours and textures and, as it turns out, she is creative in the kitchen too. We were already impressed by her spiced cauliflower gratin but then she decided to compose from scratch a salad based on the same ingredients and ended up creating this wonderful saffron currant dressing. That’s how it works here – no recipe, just inspiration and creativity.
For the saffron currant dressing, place the saffron and boiling water in a small bowl and stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in the oil and vinegar until well combined, then stir in the currants. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Stir well before using.
Preheat an oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Place the cauliflower and oil in a large bowl, toss well to combine. Transfer the cauliflower mixture to a baking tray and spread to a single layer. Bake in oven for 15–20 minutes or until tender and golden.
Place the warm cauliflower in a shallow serving dish, pour over the saffron currant dressing and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with the onion.
Colour of Maroc, is a celebration of Moroccan food and life, and is packed with tantalising photos and delicious recipes from the heart – and soul – of this captivating country. Order your copy on Amazon now.