1st June 2013The mother of one of our volunteers, Belen, comes from Ceuta on the Northern coast of Morocco, just opposite Gibraltar. Although she is Spanish, Belen grew up visiting and eating Moroccan food and we are lucky enough that she has offered to cook us a very special Moroccan meal from her childhood.
Here is what she has to tell us:
a spice shop in Ceuta....
1st of June: Summer!
It is Ceuta, the first thought that comes to my mind when I think about summer. Ceuta - Sebtah in Moroccan - is a Spanish conclave at the north of Morocco, right in front of Gibraltar. My mother was born in Ceuta and as a child and teenager I spent many summers there. Bordered by the sea and Morocco, the influence of the neighbour country is everywhere: food, architecture and people.
Waking up from the siesta with the smell of hot mint tea that my mother or my aunties prepared for us is a recurrent memory of those summers. It was so hot outside, and that delicious sweet tea was the only thing that would revive us. During the week, I would wake up early and go to the market with my grandmother; I loved going there and seeing the colourful fruits and vegetables coming from inland Morocco, the fish and the stalls selling spices. Some evenings we would go to one of the city squares and eat Moroccan seasoned chargrilled meat brochettes. And, on special days, Halima, my aunt's maid, would prepare a bastilla or a big Tfaya couscous for the whole family.
Moroccan food is colourful and perfumed with cumin, saffron, cinnamon or fresh coriander.
Arab, Berber, Jewish influences are present. Some of the Moroccan dishes can also be found in today's Andalusian cuisine, influence of the times when the Moors were in Spain; I used to think my mother would cook them because of the Moroccan influence in Ceuta.
The menu I will prepare on the 1st of June includes some of the dishes I learnt from Halima when I was 16, as well as some of the Moorish starters that my mother used to cook at home.
Moroccan salad plate: moroccan big feasts usually start with a big salad plate, composed of several salads with different colours, presented in an alternating pattern.
Zaalouk: a delicious cooked salad made with aubergines and tomatoes, perfumed with paprika and cumin.
Carrots & cumin: this colourful dish is one of my favourites. At home we always cook the Andalusian version of it.
Spinach & preserved lemons: this is a very aromatic salad, served with olives.
Bread: semolina bread and harcha.
Lamb tagine: slow cooked lamb stew with fresh apricots.
Couscous aux 7 Légumes: This is an aromatic couscous, perfumed with ginger, saffron and fresh coriander. I usually do this couscous with beef, but for this occasion I will prepare the vegetarian version.
Chicken couscous: this one is the first couscous I learnt to cook. It is prepared with onions, saffron, cinnamon, and ginger, and served with the Tfaya sauce.
Tfaya: rich and sweet sauce prepared with caramelised onions, raisins and honey. The addition of prunes gives a nice colour contrast when presented over the couscous flour.
Makrout: semolina cookies stuffed with date paste and covered with honey. This is very traditional during Ramadan and each family has its own version: medium or fine semolina, with cloves, with saffron, etc.
M'hancha: almond filled pastries perfumed with orange blossom water.
Cost will be £45 of which £35 will go direct to Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. Please email us in firstname.lastname@example.org with bookings.