breakfast

Moroccan Fairy Dust

Umami.  The new black.  Is it hype?  Sometimes.

But sometimes, that word captures what makes us do the “happy dance” when we taste something.  You know what I am talking about.  We have all caught ourselves doing the awkward “that is SO good” boogie.  So, what does the wizard behind the curtain look like?

Read the label on the front right hand barrel.  It is not that.

The label reads "berber viagra"

The label reads “berber viagra”

In this post’s case, here is a hint……

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What fish sauce is to Asian cuisine (seems, and smells iffy, but if it isn’t there, you have a sense something is missing), so argan oil and orange blossom water are to all things Moroccan.

When I was in Morocco, I thought the whole argan oil thing was overrated. Now I am not so sure.

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On a(nother) rainy day this week I found myself craving the feeling of Morocco.  The heat, the smells, and of course, the tastes!

Seeing the argan oil in my pantry, I recalled my favourite breakfasts – sliced oranges sprinkled with cinnamon and orange blossom water, and crepes with Amlou.  Amlou is Morocco’s answer to peanut butter. It is a paste made of almonds, honey, and argan oil.  After reading several recipes, making it and quickly saying “bleh”, I realized that none of the recipes were right.  None of them had orange blossom water!  Whether it is an intentional omission, or if it unnecessary in the land that has it wafting in the air, I am not sure.

When I rejigged the recipe and asked my family what it smelled like, their response was immediate.  “Morocco”.

Amlou  (this is a compilation of recipes)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups almonds
  • 3/4 cup argan oil ( I like with much less, but traditionally it is very runny)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons (or so) orange blossom water

Method:

Preheat an oven to 350° F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, or until the almonds are crunchy and darkened but make sure not to burn them.

Allow the almonds to cool a bit, then grind the toasted almonds into a paste in a food processor on high speed. Try to get the paste as smooth as possible.

Next, add the oil, warm honey, sugar and salt with the food processor running. Taste and adjust the sweetness if desired.

Add the orange blossom water when you remove the paste from the processor bowl.  Stir in by hand.

Serve on warm bread or crepes, or gently warm the amlou and serve with bread.

Amlou will keep for two months in cool, dark cupboard. Store amlou tightly covered in a jar, and shake or stir before serving.

Close your eyes. Take a bite.

 

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And I’m back.

Ok, it has been a while. I have experienced what experts call “February”. Symptoms include lack of creativity and a sense of humour. Thankfully it can be cured with a dose of Israel with a side of London.

North Americans do some things well. Even really well. But we need some international assistance in the hotel breakfast department. Sorry Germans, your salty meat displays don’t count. The Brits try hard, but offal before noon is a bit hard core for me.

I’m talking about salads, that although on first glance seem questionable at 7 a.m. are the perfect way to start the day, mixed in with a blob of labne topped with zataar, beside a mini frying pan of shakshuka. All that salad goodness certainly justifies a rugellach or 3 to follow! Funny how that halva is cut in the perfect size to grab as you waddle from the breakfast room…..

That is a breakfast of champions

That is a breakfast of champions

How can cukes, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon and salt taste that good?

How can cukes, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon and salt taste that good?

Here’s a recipe in case you still need convincing:

Shakshuka

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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-6 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)

 

Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.

Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste, and stir till blended. Add spices and stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences.

Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. Place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the centre. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which can lead to burning. (You can put it into a 350 degree oven if you want to, as long as your pot and lid are oven-safe)

If you prefer your eggs runnier, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top then, cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste.

Garnish with the chopped parsley, if desired.

Book your flight.