Morocco

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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Beating tastebud jet-lag

Time does funny things to my memories of flavor. Thinking of delights tasted in far-off lands usually ends in my attempting, and failing, to recreate them. Even if I get every nuance of the recipe right, it just doesn’t work. The air smells different. The setting is all wrong. Until now. Rewind a few months to an idyllic Moroccan vacation full of adventure, colours, and mouth-watering delicacies. While I haven’t even tried to tackle a Moroccan breakfast, I recreated a moment in time with Sofra’s recipe for Sesame-Tomato Jam. I am sitting in a tiled Riad in Marrakesh…..mmmmm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOMATO SESAME JAM

• 4 cups peeled and seeded tomatoes (or one can diced tomato)

-­‐ for easy peeling, blanche the tomatoes in boiling water for about one minute until the skin splits, then remove and let cool enough to handle before peeling

• 1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste

• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

• 2 teaspoons ras el hannout (see below)

• 2 tablespoons honey

• 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

• 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place all of the ingredients except for the lemon juice in a large sauté pan on low heat and GENTLY simmer until it turns into a soft jam. (About 30 minutes)

Stir in lemon juice.

Season with salt and white pepper

RAS EL HANNOUT (this makes enough to use in lots of other ways)

• ¼ cup cumin seeds

• ¾ tsp saffron

• 1½ tsp ground cinnamon

• 1 T turmeric

• 1 tsp ground ginger

• 1 T ground black pepper

• ½ cup paprika

In a small skillet on low heat, toast the cumin seed for 2 minutes until fragrant. Cool and grind with the saffron.

Place in a small mixing bowl and combine with the remaining spices.