Cooking: Back to Marrakesh

Three very authentic Jewish Moroccan recipes.

Marrakesh (photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
(photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
This time we will focus on Marrakesh and Moroccan food.
For me, arriving in Morocco is like traveling back in time. It is beautiful, mystical, colorful, and the smell in the air reminds me of my youth, when we had our summer home in the mountains outside Tangier.
During our last visit there, we visited the three valleys for which this region is most famous, the Ourika Valley, Asni Valley and Oukaimeden Valley, and on the way we experienced traditional Berber culture and an amazing Berber mint tea that we will never forget.
Inspired by our experiences there, I decided to share three very authentic Jewish Moroccan recipes. Perhaps you could try them over the holidays.
I think the best ma’amoul biscuits I had when in Marrakesh was when having tea one afternoon in the famous La Mamounia hotel. They served us with the mint tea a tiny, amazingly baked ma’amoul biscuit stuffed with a creamy date paste. I managed to get the recipe.
Makes 24 ma’amoul biscuits
For the biscuit dough:
■ 4 cups flour
■ ¾ tsp. baking powder
■ 1 cup boiling milk (the heavier the better)
■ 225 gr. butter
■ ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ 1 tsp. vanilla essence
■ 1 tsp. almond essence
For the biscuit filling: ■ 500 gr. good-quality date paste
■ ½ tsp. cinnamon
■ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
■ 2 Tbsp. condensed milk
For the biscuit dough, place all ingredients together in a food processor and blend until a dough is formed.
Do not overmix it.
In a separate bowl, mix your date paste, cinnamon, nutmeg and condensed milk until you have a nice, creamy mix.
Preheat your oven to 180°, line an oven tray with baking paper and start making with your biscuit dough as many “golf balls” as you can. Then wet your hands, flatten each of your golf balls with your finger, stuff them with the date mix, and close them back to a stuffed golf-ball size.
When finished shaping biscuits, place them in a tray and bake for around 25 minutes, or until they have a nice, golden color. Bring them out and set aside to cool. Once they have cooled and before serving, sprinkle with icing sugar and cinnamon. Serve with a nice mint tea after a meal.
Roast poussin
Serves 4
■ 4 x 250 gr. fresh poussin (this size you can serve 1 each)
■ 8 garlic cloves, sliced
■ 10 dried apricots
■ 100 gr. baked, skinned almonds
■ 1 cup semisweet white wine (such as Bartenura)
■ 1 cup fresh mint
■ ¼ cup fresh ginger, sliced
■ 8 baby shallots
■ 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ ½ cup honey
■ ½ l. chicken stock
■ 1 tsp. cinnamon powder
■ 1 tsp. turmeric
■ 1 tsp. cumin
■ Sea salt and pepper
Place your poussin on a tray, sprinkle some of your olive oil, place inside each poussin 2 garlic cloves, salt and pepper and place them in a very hot oven (250°) for 25 minutes. Then leave to rest.
In a medium-size pan with your olive oil, start frying your shallots and ginger. When brown and ready, add all your spices, wine and honey, stirring constantly, and add your stock, apricots and almonds.
Once you have a nice sauce going, place your poussin in a Pyrex dish or a deep tray and cover them with your apricot sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and cover the Pyrex or tray with aluminum foil. Place back in the hot oven for an extra 30 minutes.
Serve them very hot, sprinkle with fresh mint.
I would definitely serve them with a nice, fluffy couscous.
(The best!) Moroccan fish
Serves 4 (as a starter)
■ 800 gr. fresh bass, bream or grouper (clean fillets cut into 4 portions)
■ 4 small green peppers, cut in half
■ 1 small red chilly pepper, finely chopped with seeds
■ 8 garlic cloves finely chopped.
■ 1 bundle of fresh coriander, chopped
■1 cup of peeled and chopped fried tomatoes
■ ½ cup dry white wine
■ ½ l. fish stock
■ 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ 1 tsp. sweet paprika
■ 1 tsp. hot paprika
■ ½ tsp. red hot chili pepper
■ ½ tsp. cumin
■ Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Place a pan on a hot fire with a quarter of your olive oil and sauté your four pieces of fish fillet, 1 minute on each side, and leave to rest. All you want is to give them a little color and taste.
Put the leftover olive oil in a medium-size pot and start heating. When hot, add the green peppers and garlic. When nice and brown, add your chilly pepper, chopped tomatoes and wine, stirring all the time.
When wine has vaporized, add your stock, paprikas, red hot chili pepper, cumin, salt and pepper.
Once you have a good, consistent sauce going, place your fish fillets on top of the sauce, cover with all the chopped coriander and cover the pot. Leave to cook for an extra 15 minutes. Remember, if you overcook your fish, it will be dry.
Serve very hot as an appetizer. I like serving Moroccan fish with a nice homemade halla and a good mayonnaise.