Sunday, June 29, 2008

Marrakech, the big square, Djeema el Fna. Fabulous food of all descriptions, ready to go.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Couscous Marrakech

One of the best couscous recipes, rich, flavorful, spicy, but only hot if you choose.

Couscous is a semolina based pasta, and like spaghetti, couscous is the name of the pasta and of the completed dish.

For the couscous grain, choose regular or whole-wheat, medium instant couscous. Despite what the package might say, it requires a bit more work than adding boiling water. Good couscous is not instant oatmeal.

For 2 cups of dry couscous, you will need 3/4 cup hot water, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1tbsp olive oil or butter.

Place the couscous in a bowl, add the hot water and salt, and stir. Let it sit for ten minutes to absorb the water. Fluff with a fork or rub with your fingers to separate the grains. Add the butter or olive oil, and rub through the grains gently. Set aside.

The Dish

Couscous Marrakech is best with chicken, but can be adapted to a vegetarian dish by using firm tofu.


500gm boneless chicken breast, cut in strips

1 12oz can chickpeas

two medium onions

one clove garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 cup raisins

3 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

1tbsp light jam - apricot, peach, or marmalade (this is the trick)

1/4 cup slivered toasted almonds

Traditionally couscous is prepared in a couscousiere, a tall two section pot like a double boiler, allowing you to prepare the main ingredients in the bottom, and steam the couscous grains above it. A simple alternative is to use a steamer over a small pot of boiling water for the couscous, and a heavy bottomed pan or deep skillet to cook the chicken.

Place the chicken strips in a bowl with 1tbsp olive oil, the paprika, cumin, garlic, and black pepper. Mix and let marinate for 15min. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and set aside. Peel and very coarsely chop the onions. Place the raisins in a small bowl with boiling water just to cover.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan or a deep skillet. Add the chicken, and brown over medium heat. Add the onions and cinnamon, and continue cooking until the onions are translucent. Now drain the raisins, and add to the chicken with the chickpeas, jam, and red pepper flakes. Stir lightly, then add 2 cups hot water. Cover and cook 15min over medium low heat, checking to make sure the liquid doesn't evaporate.

While the chicken is cooking, place the couscous grain in a perforated steamer, over boiling water. Steam for 5 minutes, fluffing with a fork once or twice.

Add the chopped cilantro to the chicken, and taste for seasoning.

Pile the couscous grain on a large round plate, with a well in the center. Drizzle the couscous with some of the sauce from the chicken, and then pile the chicken mixture in the center of the couscous, reserving some of the chickpeas and raisins to garnish the ring of couscous. Gently pour the sauce over the dish, garnish with almonds, and serve.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Moroccan Spices

Spices are an integral part of moroccan cuisine. The subtle blending of spices is what creates the flavors of morocco.

Ras el hanout, "top of the shop", is a premixed blend of cumin, paprika, black and red pepper, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, and coriander seeds. The mix varies from shop to shop, and there are unique individual variations - the addition of cloves, rose buds, nutmeg, and other ingredients.

The most commonly used spices are cumin, paprika, pepper, cinnamon, and saffron. In all of the markets in Morocco you will see fresh spices gathered from around the world, sold by weight.