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.
If there’s one thing nicer than Murphy’s Seacláid (chocolate) Ice Cream, eaten straight from the tub beside the fire (yep, it’s still cold in Ireland!), then it’s got to be that self same cold, intensely flavoured ice cream topped with great generous spoonfuls of creamy sweet/salty confiture de lait. Perfect for an Easter treat! Literally translated as milk jam, confiture de lait is a truly luxurious, indulgent toffee caramel sauce, similar to the Argentinean dulce de leche, and often used as a spread for bread, or even to sandwich cookies together.
Equipped with one very large mixing bowl (also useful as a basin!) and a scattering of much smaller ones, I was in the market for a medium sized bowl or bowls. When the Boyfriend and I were in Avoca Handweavers a few weeks ago, queuing for our late lunch, I did some wandering around all the gorgeous goods on display. Piles of enticing cookbooks, soft and richly coloured blankets and throws, sparkling jewellery, jars of jams and jellies, sweet-smelling breads – all laid out to entice browsers and shoppers alike.
I have become a cast iron convert. A Thursday night dash into a post-Christmas sale at Kitchen Compliments on Chatham Street in Dublin led to me becoming the proud owner of an oval “Racing Green” enamelled cast iron Chasseur casserole dish (the Chasseur range is like Le Creuset but a little cheaper). Well, I started off being proud until I realised how heavy it was and that I had to drag it – with the Boyfriend’s help – to an opening at an art gallery, all the way round the (very large) exhibition, to the after-opening drinks in a local pub, and into a bad Mexican take-away on its way home to my kitchen. It survived its eventful night out in Dublin and, since then, has been put to use on many occasions, some of which have, again, involved trips across town.
Dal – also known as Dhal – is one of my favourite comforting winter meals. On a cold evening when you’ve got wet through on the walk home and don’t feel like leaving the house again, it is enormously reassuring to find that there’s a packet of red split lentils and some spices in the press and a few onions and garlic looking lonely in the vegetable rack. There are as many recipes for dal as there are vegetarians in the world so if you don’t have the exact ingredients mentioned below, don’t worry. The split lentils, onions and garlic are absolutes but you can play around with all the rest.
Seeing as both Darina and Rachel have recently been assuring the readers of their cookery books that it’s become very fashionable to entertain at home instead of going out – that, and the fact that the Boyfriend and I finally have somewhere to call home – we had some friends round last week after work for hot chocolates. It was a bitterly cold evening as I made my way home from work so I decided to supplement the hot chocolates with some soup.
Ilva at Lucullian delights – an Italian experience tagged me for the Common Cold Remedies Meme. This was started by Raquel over at Raquel’s Box of Chocolate when she asked what people do when they have the sniffles – and to pass on any remedies. This is a particularly good time of the year to be investigating ways of killing a cold but – fortunately – I’ve not had this problem yet. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know what to do, however…
The best thing about being back in Ireland is Christmas in winter. Somehow – although my readers from the other side of the world may not agree! – cold long nights and short wet days make me feel Christmasy. It’s that whole feeling of getting indoors and battening down the hatches for the miserable weather. Perfect for Christmas preparations! And driving home for Christmas surely isn’t the same unless you arrive late, on the evening before Christmas Eve, to see the house lit up with all the lights on and there’s lots of tasty smells coming out of the kitchen.