(All images by Jeff Koehler)
Blog Words : Food & Drink | 03 October

Tasty Moroccan dishes to try at home

From spice-scented markets to date-filled oasis, Morocco is a country with a rich and satisfying cuisine. Discover how to whip up your own Moroccan meals...

Spicy shrimp tagine

Often called shrimp al pip-pil, this northern favorite can be either spicy in the sense of piquant, with plenty of cayenne pepper, or spicy in the sense of heavily seasoned, with garlic, cumin, sweet paprika, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, plus plenty of fresh cilantro and parsley.

This recipe is the latter, though you can add firepower as desired. The shrimp can also be prepared in individual terra-cotta dishes and served as an appetizer.

Although I have eaten this tagine in numerous places along the coast, the finest was in Tétouan. It was in a small riad (guesthouse) called El Reducto, which had not long before been converted by a Spanish woman from a mansion that, in 1948, had been reformed for the Gran Vizier of Tétouan, Sidi Ahmed Abdelkrim Haddad. Wandering through Tétouan’s dense, ancient, and inward-looking city, it is easy to forget how near it
is to the Mediterranean.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
4 ripe medium tomatoes, halved, seeded, and grated
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp sweet paprika
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1⁄4 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
680g large shrimp, peeled, tails left on (about 340g peeled)
3 slices lemon, halved

1. In a tagine, flameproof casserole, or heavy skillet or saute pan, add the olive oil, tomatoes, and garlic, and cook uncovered over medium heat until the tomatoes are a deeper red and pulpy, about 12 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the parsley, cilantro, paprika, cayenne, and cumin. Add the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.

3. Place the shrimp on top and cook for one minute, and then turn. Place the lemon slices around the edges of the tagine, dribble 2 tbsp water in the side, cover with the lid, and cook for ten minutes.

4. Serve bubbling hot in the tagine.

Rif Mountain omelet with wild mushrooms

After a soggy winter’s morning hunting mushrooms in the cork- and pine-covered Rif Mountains with a couple of local guides, my family and I returned to a rural lodge called Auberge Dardara with owner Jaber El Habibi. Our wicker baskets brimmed with three of the three dozen varieties of edible wild mushrooms found in the nearby hills:  chanterelles, meaty cèpes (porcini) with yellow-tinted undercaps, and a type of coral Ramaria the size of cauliflower and the color of wet hay. We happily passed our spoils to the chef.

After cleaning and slicing the mushrooms, he sautéed them hot and fast to sear in the
juices, as flames shot up from the blackened skillet in the smoky kitchen. He whisked
some eggs, seasoned them with healthy pinches of local herbs, and prepared a pair of
divine omelets. A just reward for the drizzly hunt!

As the omelets need to be individually cooked, instructions below are given for a single
wide, thin omelet. If preparing more than one, sauté the mushrooms by variety but cook
the omelets individually.

Makes one 20-cm omelet; serves 1 or two

Ingredients:

225g wild mushrooms of at least two or three varieties
3 or 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 tsp dried oregano or zaâtar, plus more for garnishing
1 unpeeled garlic clove
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnishing
1 dried bay leaf

1. Keeping the mushroom varieties separate, brush them clean. Fill a bowl with water.  Quickly dunk the mushrooms in a few changes of water just before cooking. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Quarter or slice the mushrooms depending on their shape.

2. In a 25-cm skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil until smoking. Add one mushroom variety, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and quickly saute until the edges are golden, one to two minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add another 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan and saute the second mushroom variety. Repeat if needed for a third variety.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until spongy. Stir in the 1 tsp oregano and a pinch of salt. Add three-quarters of the mushrooms and turn to coat.

5. Gently crush the garlic under the heel of your palm or the side of a heavy knife. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and the garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about one minute. Remove the garlic and reserve.

6. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Immediately swirl the pan for a few seconds to keep
the mixture from sticking as the eggs begin to set.

7. Sprinkle the 1 tbsp parsley over the top and season with salt and pepper. Place the bay leaf in the centre. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the bottom is golden and the omelet is set but still moist, two to three minutes.

8. Do not turn or stir the eggs; only swirl the pan from time to time to keep the omelet from sticking. Loosen the omelet with a thin spatula if necessary and slide onto a large, flat plate.

9. Scatter the remaining mushrooms over the top along with a pinch of parsley and some oregano. Top with the reserved garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately.

Grilled marinated chicken brochettes

These are a favorite throughout the country, referred to as snacks in street stalls and in simple cafés. They’re inexpensive, flavorful, and quick to prepare. The chicken takes on a lovely golden hue from the cumin and sweet paprika. Calculate about four brochettes per person as part of a meal, accompanied by a few salads and plenty of bread.

Makes about 16 brochettes; serves 4

Ingredients:

Heaped 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
90ml olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 910g), cut into 2.5-cm cubes

1. In a large mixing bowl, add the cilantro, cumin, paprika, and cayenne (if using). Generously season with salt and pepper. Moisten with the olive oil and blend well. Add the chicken and turn to coat.

2. Cover, refrigerate, and marinate for 1 hour, turning occasionally.

3. Prepare skewers with six to eight cubes of chicken on each. The pieces should be just touching, but not squashed tightly together.

3. If using a grill pan, skillet, or griddle, lightly oil and heat over medium-high heat. If using a barbecue, prepare a fire and heat until the coals are glowing. If using a broiler, preheat the broiler.

4. Cook the brochettes, nudging them from time to time with the help of a spatula in order to cook evenly on all sides, until the meat is cooked through and firm to touch, four to five minutes.

5. Serve hot.

These three recipes have been taken from MOROCCO: A culinary journey with recipes from spice-scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora by Jeff Koehler (Chronicle books, £18.99) Order your copy online now.

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