None of the much loved Enid Blyton‘s Famous Five books that I read as a child were complete without a picnic – ham rolls, hard boiled eggs, slabs of fruit cake, tinned pears and, of course, lashings and lashings of ginger beer. The only kind of ginger drink that I came across in Ireland was ginger ale, ginger beer’s much sweeter and less spicy sibling. I wasn’t too impressed.
I have to agree with Ice Cream Ireland‘s comment on the incongruous presence of Starbucks at last weekend’s Taste of Dublin. It’s difficult to see what they have to do with food at all and in Dublin in particular. RTÉ 2FM DJ Rick O’Shea also writes of his experiences at A Taste Of Dublin (Or Two, Or Three…. Maybe Dessert Too…) and there’s debate over at the forum on Ernie Whalley’s forkncork.com. While you’re there, it’s worth taking a look at the conflicting opinions on Fallon & Byrne.
Friday afternoon was a good time to be at the inaugural Taste of Dublin event as blazing sunshine encouraged a cheerful and good humoured crowd to linger, sample and wander around a Dublin Castle courtyard crowded with stands and stalls. My €35 ticket (I managed to keep the dreaded Ticketmaster booking fees to €2 by buying from the Ticketmaster outlet in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre) entitled me to €20-worth of florins, the festival currency, but the sky was the limit as soon as you set foot inside the event areas. With sample signature dishes priced from €5 to €8, that €20 didn’t last long and I’ve even read of people spending another €70 on top of that. I was well behaved though – after spending my first €20, I just bought €5 extra – and, although portions were less than generous, I would have been hard pressed to find something I really wanted to spend more on.
Lonely Planet’s World Food MoroccoDoes exactly what it says on the tin. Having travelled and eaten our way around Thailand and Malaysia with the respective versions of these small, incredibly useful books, I recently added their Moroccan edition to my collection. Dense with information on everything from food customs to street foods and including recipes for traditional Moroccan dishes like couscous and tagines, they’re an invaluable resource while travelling. A mine of fascinating facts on argan oil, which is used to make the nutty breakfast spread called amalou; details of the ubiquitous mint tea and other drinks; regional variations in foodstuffs; and the utensils used in the Moroccan kitchen. A selection of great photos help you to identify ingredients and – Lonely Planet are nothing if not thorough! – it also has a dictionary of culinary terms, a glossary and useful phrases in both Arabic and French. As well as our well-used Malaysia & Singapore and Thailand books, the Lonely Planet World Food series also covers places like Portugal, Vietnam, Ireland (but, to the Boyfriend’s disgust, no New Zealand!), Greece and New Orleans. An invaluable travelling companion.
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.