more Marrakech food and sights

My last post on Marrakech. But more Morocco to come!

A man was selling mint from giant sack, right on the street.

mint for sale

mint for sale

Fried fish. Mark, our guide, said that it wasn’t worth eating seafood here and that it would be better on the coast. Also, notice the Activia sign. I had no idea that stuff was so far reaching!

fish and yogurt sign

fish and yogurt sign

Lots and lots and lots of colourful tagines for sale.

tagines

tagines

Mutton, anyone?

butcher

butcher

Garlic and spices for sale on the side of the street.

garlic and spices

garlic and spices

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Djemaa el Fna, Marrakech

Sheep’s head, anise flavoured snails and cinnamon are three things that immediately flood my memory when I think about Djemaa el Fna and Marrakech.

Djemaa el Fna is the main square in Marrakech’s medina quarter. Bustling and filled with merchants and performers all day and night, this area inspired the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity UNESCO project, where they identify cultural history such as music and performances, rather than physical buildings and places.

Djemaa el Fna in the daytime

Djemaa el Fna in the daytime

During the day, stalls sell orange juice, dates and nuts. Performers wander around with poor Barbary apes on chains and snake charmers try to lure in tourists.

another shot of Djemaa el Fna in the daytime

another shot of Djemaa el Fna in the daytime

There are a number of cafés facing the square.

doughnut seller and cafe

doughnut seller and cafe

merchants

merchants

snake charmers

snake charmers

And then, before sunset, the snakes move out and the food carts start moving in.

food carts

food carts

To me, this is when Djemaa el Fna really comes alive. At night the square is filled with food stalls, hungry people, singers, drummers, dancers, storytellers, women doing tattoos with some dubious henna and people selling traditional medicines.

nuts and dried fruits

nuts and dried fruits

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Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Everyone I’ve ever told about this recipe have raved about its taste. It’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s easy to make, only uses one pot and it tastes damn good. I discovered it one day when watching Good Deal with Dave Lieberman on TV.

“Wow, that looks simple and delicious,” I thought. And so I immediately went looking for the recipe on the US Food Network website. I’ve made it enough times now that I’ve adjusted some ingredients to fit my own personal taste.

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup
Adapted from Good Deal with Dave Lieberman
Makes approximately 4-6 large servings.

Ingredients
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, roughly diced
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (original recipe asks for just 1 tsp but I like the additional cinnamon taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want heat)
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
1 can chopped tomatoes (796 mL/28 oz, original recipe used half of this amount though)
2 cans chickpeas (540 mL/19 oz per can), rinsed and drained
1 carton (900 mL) reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth… or use your own stock of course)
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-washed baby spinach

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent (lower the heat if browning starts to occur). Add all your spices spices and sauté for a minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth and sugar. Add a pinch of salt and approximately 10 grinds of fresh pepper.

Don’t forget to stir as you add each ingredient. The chickpeas should be just covered with liquid; if you don’t have enough liquid add some water.

Bring the soup to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Basically, you want the chickpeas to soften enough so that there is no bite.

Remove the soup from the heat and use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas (but not all of them) right there in the pot. Spoon out your soup and add plenty of spinach to each bowl, stirring until the heat just starts to wilt the leaves. If you’re serving the entire pot, go ahead and add your spinach to the pot instead of into individual bowls. Add additional salt and pepper if necessary, and serve the soup lightly drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

Black bean and corn salad

Black bean and corn salad

Black bean and corn salad

A few years ago I did some research using my friend the Internet, looking for a fresh summer recipe. The one I used that day, and used many times since, surprised me because it was a recipe by Rachael Ray.

Now, I have never particularly liked watching Rachael Ray. Nothing really against her food but I find her way of speaking to be quite irritating. If the use of “evoo” and “yum-o” ever died I would be okay with that.

This dish is really tasty though, so if you don’t like Ray, don’t avoid this recipe just because of where it came from. And if you’re a fan of hers, if you haven’t tried this one yet I highly recommend it. It is a convenient dish that has relatively few ingredients – and even better usually ingredients that I have on hand at all times.

Black bean and corn salad
Adapted from the 30 Minute Meals tv show by Rachael Ray

Ingredients
1 can black beans (540 mL/19 oz), rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 small red, yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce (this is pretty mild once mixed but add less if you don’t like it hot or more if you want it hotter)
2 tablespoons of lime juice (approximately juice of one lime)
2 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl. Let the salad sit while the frozen corn defrosts, then stir again before serving. This is a great recipe to take to a bbq or party as the corn will keep your salad chilled as it defrosts.

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

Eggplant curry (baingan bharta)

For dinner on Thursday night, and lunch leftovers on Friday, I cooked with eggplant for the very first time. This dish also gave me the opportunity to try out the new non-stick marble coated wok I picked up the last time I was at T&T.

For this dish I chose something relatively simple to make. Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean simple flavours though; this dish had plenty of layers. I could definitely see myself doubling the recipe next time in order to have additional leftovers. Eaten with half a piece of Olafson’s flaxseed and multigrain breakfast pita (toasted in the already heated broiler), the meal was healthy, full of vegetables, spicy, hearty, satisfying and filling. My best reaction was a statement from one of the other people who ate the dish – “you’re allowed to make this one again.” Continue reading