Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cookbook of the week #9: Step-by-step Moroccan Cooking

My forays into Moroccan cookery have not always been successful. The last attempt not from the featured book was a disaster. The recipe was for a tagine of lamb with prunes and cinnamon, from a reputable cooking magazine where it was praised to the skies as a wonderful recipe taught to the cooks who are trained to work in Moroccan embassy kitchens. I followed the recipe to the letter and got a gooey, slimy, lumpy concoction resembling nothing as much as badly mixed cinnamon-scented wallpaper glue. Either I went wrong somewhere (the likeliest reason), there was an error in the recipe, or there are some areas of Moroccan cookery I should stay away from.

I discovered Moroccan cuisine back when I was in college. There was a Moroccan restaurant in Reykjavík at the time and I went there several times and loved everything I tasted. Unfortunately it didn't survive for long and was replaced by a steak-house, and it was a long time until I tasted Moroccan food again. A friend who knew I loved Middle-Eastern and North-African cooking gave me this little book and I have used several recipes from it.

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This little book or booklet was published by Murdoch Books in 1992. It's part of a series of small recipe books, a mixture of cuisines and themes. These step-by-step books are very useful for beginners, as they show the main steps of each recipe in photographs that are accompanied by clear and simple instructions.

The recipes I have already tried from this book are:
Preserved lemons. These looked lovely to begin with but unfortunately the pickling jar I used didn't seal itself properly and some of the pickling liquid evaporated and the lemons went bad, so I never got to taste them. I will definitely make them again some day.
Tagine of mixed vegetables. This has a mild but distinctive flavour and is quite good if you like cumin.
Roast lamb with spices. Very good indeed.
Moroccan rice and meat balls. I have made these several times and loved them every time.

Choosing a recipe from this book is a bit of a challenge, as some of the ingredients are difficult to get in Iceland, like veal (seems to be by special order only), quinces and pumpkin. I am vacillating between:

Eggplant purée
Moroccan Cigars: Filo pastry rolls filled with spicy minced meat.
Vegetable Couscous: In which case I'll have to either leave out the pumpkin or wait until pumpkins arrive in the shops (they are sometimes available, sometimes not);
Moroccan-style fish with dates
B'stilla: A pie, properly made with pigeon or squab, here adapted to chicken.
Lentil Soup
Cucumber Salad with Mint
Khobz (wholemeal flat bread)
Whole Baked Fish
Chicken and Olives
Barbecued Lamb with Chermoula
Almond Macaroons

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