Honey – Moroccan honey is the most un-honey-tasting honey that I’ve ever eaten. We often had it for breakfast, the rich caramel sweetness drizzled across English muffin-styled Moroccan pancakes called beghrir or the flaky, multi-layered m’semen. Accompanied with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a café crème, it made the perfect start to the day.Spices – although I’ve been really happy with my old blend of ras el hanout from Greg Malouf‘s Moorish, I couldn’t resist the chance of picking up some more to compare and contrast it with what I use. I also got turmeric, ground ginger and two types of chilli powder(at least I think that’s what piment fort/piment doux means!).Olives – a kilo of green olives in what the shopkeeper described as “piquante” flavouring and another half kilo of wrinkled sweet black olives. I loved how each meal in Morocco started with a small bowl of these olives and a basket of flatbread as we perused the menu. They never lasted long.Dates – considering the variety and quality on offer, I was restrained and came home with only a half kilo of the sweet, plump fruit. One dish that kept turning up in the books that I read while travelling there was of a roasted fish, stuffed with almond-filled dates. Must try and keep a few true Moroccan dates to try out that recipe.Preserved lemons – while picking up the olives and dates in a small shop near the Casablanca train station, minutes before we had to get the train to the airport, I couldn’t resist getting a few of these glorious-looking lemons. This, despite the fact that I’d made a jarful from some organic lemons before I left Ireland! Another thing for the compare and contrast experiments, methinks.Garlic – the small bulbs of garlic available in Morocco are much sweeter than the stuff that you can find on sale in Ireland. I love to use raw garlic but it can be very off-putting if, instead of gently cosying up to the other ingredients, it decides to loudly broadcast its presence. I brought some good quality garlic home from Paris and it lasted me ages so I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of bulbs in Casablanca when I got the chance.
After two weeks of sunshine and heat in Morocco we’ve returned to an amazingly summery Ireland – perfect for last night’s sun-soaked family party to celebrate my Gran’s 90th birthday.Just in the door of our Dublin flat so sour milk has to be thrown out of the fridge, fresh supplies to be bought and the raw clay Berber tagine that we lugged through a couple of taxi trips, two flights, three airports and a pair of train journeys needs to be unpacked, along with assorted spices, dates, olives, tea, honey and god only knows what else from our travel-beaten rucksacks.And then I’ll have time to sit down and write about the meals, tastes and flavours that I’ve encountered during my time in Morocco!
Bibliocook is on tour! The Boyfriend and I travelled to Casablanca last weekend to meet with a friend – the Australian – and spend a couple of weeks travelling around the country. It’s a good opportunity to practise the languages that we’ve been learning, French for me and Arabic in the Boyfriend’s case, as well as doing a through investigation of the food and flavours of Morocco. Not to mention continuous stops to feed the BF’s addiction to the refreshing, sweet mint tea available on every corner. Unfortunately, the lack of internet cafès in the Sahara and absence of QUERTY keyboards may mean less frequent updates for the moment but I’ll remedy that as soon as I get back to Ireland. Now, time for tonight’s tagine…
Cookbook sections in secondhand bookshops can be a little hit or miss. There’s always a pile of microwave cookbooks – no one, for some reason wants to hang onto these dodgy and dated texts – a scattering of horrible diet books and often lots of ancient Family Circle publications, with their “triple-tested in the test kitchens” claim, but, rarely something that you actually want to cook from, let alone buy. Still, I live in hope, so a recent trip to Athlone had to include a browse in the local secondhand bookshop (I still haven’t discovered its name) which turned out to be a most amazing example of its kind.
The Boyfriend and I are about to head off to Morocco in a week’s time so I thought I should use up my last year’s supply of Moroccan spice blend Ras al hanout on a meal for the Writer – who brought me my first taste of spices from Morocco – and her husband. I decided to make my favourite Moroccan Lamb Tagine and, to accompany it, thought that I’d jazz up my usual plain couscous a little.
I’ve often intended to but never quite got round to getting involved in Sugar High Friday. It’s a reoccurring blog event that was originally, once-upon-a-long-time-ago, started by Domestic Goddess Jennifer. This round is being hosted by Ruth, who is physically situated in Toronto – virtually at Once Upon A Feast and the theme she has picked for this month is ginger. I love this spice in all its incarnations, ground and used in a delicious little Ginger Gem, chunks of crystallised ginger studing a moist, sticky slab of Gingerbread or – at the other end of the spectrum – slices of the fresh root simmered in a savory chicken stock for soup.
When the days get brighter and longer, a girl’s thoughts turn to salad lunches. Based about 15 minutes walk away from any shops or cafés and blessed/cursed with a sloppy canteen, I bring my lunch to work year-round. Brown Bread and a fridge in the office are my lifesavers – the bread for toasting in the canteen and the fridge to store endless blocks of cheese for my normal lunch. Sometimes food bloggers eat boring food too! With the arrival of the summer, however, I start wanting a little more variety, particularly as the canteen is closed at the moment so I have no access to my toaster.
Watch out next month for Taste of Dublin 2006, running from 22 June to 25 June in the gardens at Dublin Castle and described in the press release as Dublin’s “first outdoor gourmet food and drink festival”. Ha! There’s a reason why there aren’t more outdoor events in Ireland – talk to the shivering, drenched stallholders at any of the markets around the country and see why. Anyway, festival visitors can expect signature dishes from a selection of the city’s restaurants, including a few of my favourites – the lovely Silk Road Café in the Chester Beatty Library and the more sophisticated Cellar Restaurant at The Merrion.