Monday, 27 June 2011

So very Moorish

Last year I overcame severe claustrophobia to fly to Marrakech for my honeymoon. I say ‘overcame’ but it was more a case of ‘doped myself up to the eyeballs on diazepam’ Son2 was only 15 months old at the time but my mum had volunteered to look after both the boys for 6 days while we celebrated our nuptials in the scorching heat of Morocco.  We had picked Marrakech for 2 reasons.

1.       Your money goes twice as far there as it would in Europe. We had an amazing suite in a riad, with its own roof terrace and plunge pool and a houseboy to bring us copious booze(most of which was included in the price). All for around £140 per night, which would get you a very average hotel room in Italy or France

2.       Their food is amazing
While we were there we ate in some of the best restaurants and had fantastic food every day. One of the best meals I have ever eaten was in a restaurant called Tobsil, we had a main course of chicken wrapped in pancakes, which sounds unremarkable but was unbelievably good. However there was also a cook at the riad who was outstanding. She made fabulous tagines and the best tomato salad in the entirety of the world ever.
Upon our return we bought a tagine (and were given two more in a bizarre day I call ‘The day with 3 tagines’) and I have had a lot of success in my experimentations. Moroccan food is perfect for entertaining as they tend to serve a lot of salads, most of which can be prepared in advance, and slow cooked meat. My sort of food.
So yesterday we were going to be out all afternoon at a picnic/birthday party and I wanted a proper meal for when we got back. So I shoved a happy chicken in my tagine in its entirety. I rubbed in a Morccan spice blend of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and harissa (or you can just use one of those premixed blends) and shoved a couple of preserved lemons up its backside. Splash of water in the bottom, lid on and into the oven for a couple of hours at 180. While it was cooking I made my two favourite Moroccan salads/accompaniments.
Sweet tomato jam
Fab served with chicken or lamb. Once made you can keep it in the fridge, in a clean jam jar, with a layer of oil over the top, for a couple of weeks.

2 small onions, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tins plum/chopped tomatoes
Tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
Tbsp sugar
Tbsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the onion in a little oil until soft
Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes
Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger and sugar
Simmer for about an hour, until the mixture becomes thick and jam-like
Add the honey and seasoning
Leave to cool

Moroccan carrot salad

4 large carrots, grated
Juice 1 lemon
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
Tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped coriander

Mix it all together and leave for an hour or more before serving

So while we were out the chicken rested, the carrot salad infused and upon our return all I had to do was make a green salad with red onion, slice few chunks of baguette, pour out a bowl of yogurt and plonk the chicken, jam and carrots on the table. It was fab and very reminiscent of our honeymoon, apart from the over-tired toddler spitting bread at us and seeing how dizzy he could make himself by shaking his head back and forwards as fast as he could. Oh, and after dinner I mopped the floors instead of retiring to my roof terrace. But overall, it was a bit similar, sort of.


  1. That sounds amazing, and I am definetely going to try it out in my "middle class tagine" - otherwise known as a Le Creuset crockpot.

  2. Can I request a little comment-sized explanation of your 3-tagines-in-a-day acquisition? :) The food sounds wonderful. We make a Madhur Jaffrey carrot salad a lot that's kind of similar (obv not Moroccan, is Indian); it uses black mustard seeds briefly heated in oil and added to the carrots with some salt and lemon juice. Will def try yours. Grated carrot is such a good vehicle for flavours.

  3. Wow, that does sound pretty stunning. Love both the accompanying recipes, they would work really well with some of my dishes too. Thanks for sharing :-) You have a new follower now.

  4. Umm, it's fairly self explanatory :)
    No, my husband ordered us a tagine online when we returned from our honeymoon. On the day it arrived my aunt was visiting and as she walked through the door I was unpacking it and she was proffering our wedding present. Another tagine.
    So we had a little chuckle and she offered to return it and give us the vouchers. I then posted something about it as my FB status, only to then receive a message from my stepmother informing me that she was planning to drop us round a tagine later that day, that she and my father had also bought us as a wedding gift.