Thank you so much to the Lisa Ekus Group for the copy of Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours
Moroccan food is one of those cuisines I don’t know much about. Of course I’ve heard of tagine, and know it’s both a cooking vessel and a type of food. When I think of Morocco, I think of preserved lemons, tomatoes and Casablanca. And couscous.
Now I’ve read Ruth Barnes’s (The Petite Gourmande) new book, Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours, I know a lot more than I did before, and I found myself saying to The Beloved, “This sounds amazing!” quite a bit as a turned through the pages.
Barnes states as her mission that she wants people to be able to enjoy Moroccan food without worrying about a lot of the lengthy preparation. Like all of us, she’s a busy person and wanted to make sure we could enjoy Moroccan flavors on a weeknight. In short: mission accomplished. Her ingredient lists are fairly straightforward, steps to prepare are also well explained and certainly doable by anyone with some basic kitchen skills.
I love that this book is not just a cookbook. It is almost a love letter to Morocco and Moroccan cuisine. Rather than being relegated to the back of the book, the first chapters cover the importance of food and family, French and Spanish influences on Moroccan cooking and a bit of background on The Maghreb and also on the tea culture of Morocco. These chapters serve to set the stage for the recipes that follow and place them in a broader cultural context.
Let’s take a look at the chapters along with some representative recipes, shall we?
- Drinks–Mint Tea, Watermelon Juice Cooler with Rose Water
- Spice Market–Placed directly before the recipes for food, this section covers the basics of the Moroccan spice cabinet
- Salads & Soups–Fennel and Blood Orange Salad, Fried Eggplant Salad, Pomegranate Salad, Lentil Soup with Lamb, Spicy Carrot Soup with Ginger
- The Tagine–Introduces the cooking vessel and the meal
- Main Courses–Moroccan Grilled Fish Kebabs with Chermoula, Marrakech Fish Tagine with Olives and Chickpeas, Savory Moroccan Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Saffron Rice, Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Prunes, Duck Tagine with Figs and Port Sauce
- Street Food–Snapshot of the street food scene in Morocco
- Side Dishes–Chicken Pastry Pie, Moroccan-Style Stuffed Grape Leaves with lamb and Pine Nuts, Spicy “Cigars” Stuffed with Lamb, Tagine of Couscous with Vegetables, Zucchini with Tomato Sauce
- Desserts–Almond Cookies, Chocolate Baklava with Hazelnuts, orange Blossom Water, and Honey, Candied Oranges, Gazelles’ Horns
I will be making many of the dishes in this book. At the very least, I know I will be using some Moroccan spices to bring a bit of Morocco to our table. I already went out and purchased some Ras al Hanout (spice blend “top of the shop.” Each spice merchant has their own blend mixed from their best spices) and Baharat (aromatic blend of cinnamon, cumin, allspice, black pepper, dried chiles and more. This blend can also vary from region to region).
While I love the recipes in Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours, there are some things about the book I don’t really like. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them. I am not a fan of either the food styling or the photography. This of course would never stop me from cooking from the book, but it might have a bearing on what others might do. Much of the food is shot so close up that it can be hard to tell what the food is. The lighting seems a bit moody so that even the beautifully embellished tagines appear somewhat dull. The Beloved and I kept commenting on this, so I thought I’d mention it. Another part of the book that I think could have been done better is the recipe layout. When a recipe has a very long list of ingredients, rather than writing the ingredient list in two columns, it is split across pages. This means that you might have to turn the page to read the entire ingredient list and then flip back to read the instructions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cookbook set up that way before, and since the ingredient list doesn’t say “continued” at the bottom, you might not realize you’re missing some ingredients until you actually start cooking. Be aware of this since forewarned is forearmed, and I’d hate for you to have a frustrating experience, especially because the recipes themselves are inviting and well explained.
Raspberry Rose Souffle
The Raspberry Rose Souffle in Sharing Morocco is a spectacular dessert. It’s easy to put together, is flavorful and light, and it makes a gorgeous presentation. Including baking time, it took me 20 minutes to have these desserts ready. For anyone who is intimidated by making a souffle, please don’t be. As long as you whip your egg whites really, really well, your souffle will rise. All the tiny air bubbles you whipped into the oven will expand in the hot oven and your souffle with rise-rise-rise. Mine rose about 1 1/2″ over the tops of the mugs I baked them in–pretty cool!
If you’re worried about “collapsing,” just stop it. It’s not going to collapse. What it will do is very slowly sink down to about the level of the top of your dish. The dessert will still be light and airy, just a bit less so. You have a good 3-5 minutes to get the souffles from the oven to the table. It’s plenty of time. Honest.
Okay, let’s go.
from Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours, by Ruth Barnes, printed with permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press (October 7, 2014)
- 1 pint (12 oz) fresh raspberries
- 1 Tablespoon plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon rosewater
- 6 egg whites
- 2 oz (1/2 stick) butter
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- In a blender, place the raspberries and 1 Tablespoon of the sugar. Blend until the raspberries are pureed.
- Add the rose water to the puree, mix well, and pour into a mixing bowl.
- In a separate large bowl, slowly beat the egg whites with a handheld electric mixer for a few minutes. Then add the remaining 3 Tablespoons sugar. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
- Fold the egg whites gently into the raspberry mixture until fully blended.
- Lightly butter 6 cocottes or ramekins. (I also put some sugar in the ramekins and tapped it all around, pouring out the excess.
- Divide the mixture between the cocottes or ramekins and level the tops with a spatula.
- Place in the oven on top of a baking sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes or until the souffles rise. (I baked mine for 11 minutes)
- Serve immediately. (Don't freak out. You have 3 minutes or so to play with)
These guys are delicious. And I even ate one that was just barely still warm. It had fallen to the level of the mug I baked it in, and since it doesn’t have a starch base, some of the liquid from the raspberries and eggs was pooled in the bottom of the mug. It acted as a lovely, light rose-scented sauce. Really, really good!
I am happy that Sharing Morocco has found a place on my cookbook shelves and in my kitchen. If you are interested in learning more about Moroccan cuisine or always thought that cooking Moroccan food would require too much time, please give Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours a chance. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. And itching to get in the kitchen to cook up some fabulous Moroccan food.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read today. I hope you are all enjoying a fantastic and joy-filled holiday season.