So I’ve been sitting here for the last 27 minutes staring blankly at this screen, the smell of freshly ground coffee fills the airwaves as it cools to the perfect temperature. My mind wonders as it gets lost within its own preconceived thoughts of Morocco. Having never been to this part of the world, all I have is the thoughts imprinted on my brain thanks to movies, pictures, written words… and of course the episode of “Jamie Does” when he goes to Marrakesh. I picture Morocco as a not so forgotten time capsule filled with a sea of culture beaming with good music, great food and beautifully designed buildings, yet untouched by the modern world. I picture vast open deserts, red dirt and heat waves rippling in the distance. As you walk down the street I imagine donkeys, street markets and hessian bags filled with spices with people everywhere. I see the Moroccan way of life heavily based around food and feasting with family and friends. I could be wrong, but for the moment this is how I picture Morocco.
Last year I attended the Eat Drink Blog conference, after the conference I walked out with a wealth of new knowledge and formed friendships with fellow food lovers. We decided late last year that we must plan a catch up, and what better way to do it than with a themed dinner party? Jemima of Feed Your Soul Perth, kindly offered the use of her kitchen and home for the evening. We decided to keep this one small to see how it went. On the guest list we had, Jemima, Lexi (Jemima’s sister), Laura from Laura’s Mess and her husband Aaron (the creative mind behind my cool new Inspired Food Dude) and of course I was there. Themes were discussed and the winner was a Moroccan inspired feast.
As we were welcomed into Jemma’s home we spotted a beautifully laid table outside which fitted in perfect with the Moroccan theme. Once everyone arrived we jumped straight in. Laura kindly offered to make some dips and dessert for the evening… well actually I think Jemima and I snapped up the option to cook the mains before Laura had a chance. This didn’t seem to bother Laura at all, when she arrived I spotted what looked to be amazingly fresh flat bread rolled up in a towel, I could tell this was going to be the start of something wonderful. I wasn’t disappointed, the towel was slowly removed and a beautiful homemade Khobz (Moroccan Flat bread) was revealed… yum. Of course you can’t just eat the bread on it’s own (well some people can), so it was served with a split pea bessara dip and burnt eggplant, tahini and pomegranate dip. This combination of flavours transported me right into my mind’s eye of Morocco. As Laura plated these up, you could just tell by watching her and the way she moved that her eye for detail is amazing. The bread was positioned on the board to look just right, a slight adjustment here and there and we were left with a dish that looked like it belonged in a cookbook. After tasting both dips I could instantly tell that Laura’s attention to detail translates into her cooking as well. The balance of flavour was perfect.
After sufficiently stuffing our faces with breads and dips, it was time for Jemima and I to step up and cook/serve our mains. Jemima opted for a Moroccan spiced quinoa salad and a chicken and date tagine. The Moroccan spiced quinoa salad was outstanding and is definitely a salad I’ll be adding to my arsenal. The combination of pumpkin, pomegranate, olives and goats cheese (as well as an array of other ingredients) is enough to win anyone over. Then came time for the Chicken and date tagine. With my first spoonful of this dish I was instantly transported back to my childhood and the combination of date and chicken triggered my memory of apricot chicken as a child. I think when fruit is added to a savoury main, there’s a certain sweetness it brings, and it’s a winner in my book. The chicken tagine was laced with Moroccan spices and once again everything was perfectly balanced. The smell of cinnamon when this was getting cooked was again a reminder of my vision of Morocco. Both these ladies sure know how to cook and have outstanding palates.
I was serving my mains alongside with Jemima, and to be honest I was beyond nervous… I get nervous just from people watching me cook, let alone cooking for people with a strongly developed sense of taste. That and the fact I was using a yet untested recipe… well let’s just say I’m glad I had a few beers to calm the nerves. My two dishes were a Moroccan lamb meatball stew and an orange and olive Moroccan salad. As nervous as I was, both dishes turned out pretty well. I’ve made a few post taste adjustments to the recipe so you guys won’t have any issues when you make these dishes. 🙂
Once we had finished our mains, we took a long break to make room for everybody’s favourite course… dessert. Laura was on dessert duties and made a spectacular za’atar pistachio and rose ice- cream, cardamom and orange blossom ice-cream with an almond pistachio shortbread. I think this was the dish of the night for just about everyone sitting at the table. The ice-cream was deliciously creamy with the shortbread adding great texture. The flavours are present but not too in your face, again everything balanced perfectly.
After a nice cup of tea, that was it, the night was over. We all ate far too much and enjoyed every mouthful. I highly recommend you do yourself a favour and take note of all our recipes from the night and organise your own Moroccan dinner party. You can find them here, on Inspired food, Feed Your Soul Perth and Laura’s Mess.. You won’t be disappointed, I promise. I can’t wait for our next feast… although I’ll need to bring my A game in order to keep up with Laura and Jemima!
Moroccan Orange Salad
What you will need:
- 4 oranges, peeled and sliced (keep as much juice as you can)
- 1/2 an onion, thinly sliced (as thin as you can go without losing a finger!)
- 1 handful of olives (remove the seeds)
- 1 pomegranate (optional)
- 1 small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 small handful of mint, roughly chopped
- 1/2 a lemon, juice only
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Lay the oranges out on the platter, scatter the onions olives and pomegranate over the top.
- Combine 1 tablespoon of the left over orange juice with the lemon juice and pour over the salad.
- Add the parsley and mint to the salad.
- Combine the spices in a bowl and sprinkle over the top of the salad (don’t be too heavy handed with this part).
- Serve and enjoy.
Moroccan Lamb Meatball Stew with Harissa Yogurt:
- 500g lamb mince (get the good stuff from your local butcher)
- 1/3 cup of coriander
- 1/3 cup parsley
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 good pinch of salt
What you will need for the harissa yogurt:
- 1 tablespoon harissa paste
- 1/2 cup natural yogurt
What you will need for the stew:
- olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 capsicum, diced (try to keep them the same size as the onion)
- 1 kg tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 handful coriander chopped for garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs into a large bowl. Once combined shape into little golf sized balls.
- Heat a large saucepan over a medium high heat add a little olive oil and brown the balls on all sides (you don’t need them to be cooked through, you just want to add colour and tasty bits)
- Once all the meatballs are browned remove them from the saucepan reserving the oil.
- Use the oil to cook the onions, garlic and capsicum over a medium low heat until the onions soften.