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Archive for the ‘North African style’ Category

There was a glut of fresh figs on our market during the autumn and I was able to buy a whole tray really inexpensively.  My family could eat a whole tray in one sitting and these were particularly sweet and soft, but I squirrelled a few away so I could try this wonderful sounding dish.  At the same time on the market there were the last of the years peaches and nectarines, a little hard and not easy to ripen, so not especially good for eating, but ideal for cooking which brings out their flavour beautifully.  A good reminder of the last of summer.

My starting point for this recipe came from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson and had the exotic sounding name: Figs for 1001 Nights.  I gently grilled the fruits in the spiced butter as in the original recipe but using peaches as well as figs.  An alternative would be to pop them briefly in a hot oven, but I would only do this if I already had the oven on to cook something else  – flash grilling is fine.  Nigella used a little rosewater and orange flower water in her basting mixture.  I used the orange flower but although I had the rose water in my cupboard I left it out as my daughter sadly dislikes the traditional rose turkish delight flavour.   I do have a bottle of rose syrup in the cupboard, however, so I used this as a pouring sauce for those of us who do like it.  (As an alternative she used a little honey, which proved equally as good as honey and figs are also a good match.)  Rose syrup is a lovely item to have in the cupboard and is delicious with rhubarb and yoghurt, or poured over ice cream, however it is very sweet so I suggest it is used sparingly at first as it can be quite overpowering.  I have some sachets of vanilla sugar, bought on holiday in France, with one being just about 1 tbsp.  If this is not available then substitute granulated sugar and a very small amount of vanilla extract, one or two drops maximum.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Grilled Figs & Peaches
(Serves 6 – 6 figs & 6 peaches/nectarines)

1 fresh fig per person (or 2 smaller ones)
1 fresh peach or nectarine per person
25 g unsalted butter
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
or
1 tbsp granulated sugar & 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
½tsp orange flower water
To serve:
50 g pistachio nuts, chopped
Crème fraîche
Rose syrup, to drizzle – to taste or honey

1. Preheat the grill on a high heat – alternatively use an oven set to a high heat, at least 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2. Carefully cut the figs with a cross shape as if quartering them but do not cut righ through to the bottom and then gently press each fig.  They should look like four petalled flowers.

3.  Cut the peaches or nectarines into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing the stones.

4.  Place the opened figs and peach/nectarine pieces in a snugly fitting single layer in a heatproof dish.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a glass microwave proof bowl or jug.  Stir in the cinnamon, sugar and orange flower water until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are using rose water rather than syrup, as in the original recipe, add it at this point (½tsp should be enough).  Stir well and baste the figs and peaches/nectarines.

6.  Place under the hot grill or into the oven for just a few minutes.  The fruit should warm through slightly and the skins should start to blister from the heat.  Beware leaving too long, especially if oven cooked, as the fruit can become over soft and could also burn.

7.  Serve immediately giving each person two figs and one peach or nectarine (either two or four pieces depending on how they have been cut.   Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and pour over the brown cooking juices  and a drizzle of rose syrup (if you have not used rose water in the cooking mixture) or honey.  Finally sprinkle over some chopped green pistachio nuts.

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The addition of orange and mint to the mixture makes this couscous recipe both colourful and refreshingly delicious.  It has a summery look and taste, although it originally appeared in a winter magazine and would be perfect served as part of a summer buffet or BBQ.  It was originally designed to be served with Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks which would be perfect cooked outdoors, although I grilled them in the kitchen.  There is already a recipe for the much less sweet Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad on this site, using preserved lemon and flavoured with fresh coriander.

The original recipe came from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of the Tesco free instore magazine and there is also a link to Moroccan Lamb Chops with Couscous online.  The couscous recipe below is my own variation with slightly adjusted quantities and the addition of a tin of chick peas to make it more substantial. The original recipe included halved red peppers which were grilled alongside the meat and then added to the couscous mixture, but I simply used a diced ungrilled red pepper.

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Orange Couscous
(Serves 4)

3 oranges
250g/8oz couscous
handful mint leaves – reserve a little for final garnish
50g/2oz black olives
1tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 x 400g tin chick peas
150ml/¼ pt boiling water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.   Peel two oranges and remove all of the white pith.  Holding the oranges over a bowl to catch any juice, slice them between the membranes with a sharp knife and carefully divide into segments.  Once the segments have been removed squeeze any remaining juice from the orange membranes before discarding.

2.  Cut the remaining orange in half and squeeze out the juice, adding it to any already collected.

3.  Drain and rinse the chick peas.

4.  Halve, deseed and finely slice the red pepper and cut into small pieces of around 1 inch/2.5cm. Alternatively the pepper can be grilled alongside the meat, as in the original recipe, and then sliced and stirred into the couscous mixture at step 7.

5.  Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl along with the chick peas, red pepper pieces and the olive oil.  Pour over all the orange juice plus the boiling water.

6.  Cover and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed the liquids.

7.  Chop the mint and gently stir most of it into the couscous along with the orange segments and the black olives.  Be careful not to break up the orange pieces.  Season well to taste.

8.  Serve the meat on a bed of fruity couscous, scattered with a little extra chopped mint.

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This simple flavour rub for a lamb steak or chop is full of the summer warmth of North African spices: cumin, paprika and coriander. Perhaps then in November, once the nights start to draw in, it is a good way to bring back Mediterranean holiday flavour memories that are by now receding into the past.  It is almost too simple a recipe to add here but I have been exploring different marinade recipe ideas recently: for pork especially but also for chicken and lamb so wanted to add this as a stand alone item.  The original recipe was for marinaded chop with a delicious minty/fruity couscous but I have divided the recipe into two posts, with the couscous to follow next.  Both recipes stand alone, of course … but they were delicious together.

The recipe comes from a winter (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of the Tesco free instore magazine. In the original the spice rub marinade is simply rubbed onto the meat just prior to cooking, but to get a better depth of flavour it is much better if left throughout the day or overnight.  The recipe is delicious if served with Orange Couscous, its original accompaniment.  I quickly grilled the lamb steak on a George Foreman grill, but it could be grilled conventionally or pan fried as in the original recipe.

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Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks
(Serves 4)

4 thick lamb chops or steaks (alternatively use chicken or pork)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
large pinch paprika
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   Wipe the lamb steaks and place in a dish.

2.  Sprinkle over the the spices, add a little salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil.

3.  Gently turn the chops around in the spicy mixture using fingers or a fork then cover and leave the flavours to develop.  Ideally this should be throughout the day or overnight.

4.  Using as much of the spicy marinade as possible, grill the chops or steaks under a preheated hot grill for about four minutes each side, or a little long if preferred, but until the lamb is cooked to your preference.  Alternatively they can be gently pan fried for a similar length of time in a hot frying pan with a little additional olive oil if needed.  A George Foreman grill can also be used.

5. When cooked, the meat can be covered with foil to keep warm while the couscous mixture is being finished.  The meat can either be served in one piece or cut into strips or chunks.

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Chorba is a Moroccan spicy vegetable and pasta soup flavoured with the traditional North African spice mix Ras el-Hanout, which translates as ‘top of the shop’.  There are many versions of this spice mixture and each spice merchant has their own, sometimes containing up to one hundred different ingredients. I have already added details on the combination I use to make Ras el-Hanout.  It can be bought ready made, of course, but if you are like me and have a good selection of individual spices in your cupboard it is not difficult to make.  The only ingredient I had to buy was the rose petals, which I found in a local Turkish supermarket.  As far as I am concerned this warming and filling vegetarian soup is definitely as good as any plated evening meal, especially in the colder months.  A decent sized bowlful is adequate for me, but for larger appetites it could be served before a light main course such as a salad or in a much smaller quantity before a more substantial main course.

The recipe comes from the book on my shelf with the honour of having the longest title: The Complete Illustrated Food & Cooking of Africa & the Middle East: A Fascinating Journey Through the Rich & Diverse Cuisines of Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey & Lebanon by Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood, bought after I felt I could no longer hang on to the copy I had found in the library.  So many interesting and different ideas from Africa, which is after all a very big place so I would expect a huge variety.  Even though there are some unusual ingredients most of the recipes do not appear to be completely impossible to attempt.  Certainly with this recipe I had everything I needed to hand.  I have made very few adjustments to the original recipe: slightly less clove, half the quantity of celery (as my husband isn’t all that keen) and a tin of tomatoes in place of fresh ones (though both given here as an either/or).  The finishing touches were a swirl of plain yoghurt (always in the fridge), fresh coriander (currently in a pot by the back door) and some crusty bread.  I did not have the Moroccan loaf recommended but we had a crusty seeded pide loaf from the bakery at our local Turkish foodshop which produces wonderful bread.   If you can find an ethnic style flatbread, or even some warmed pitta bread, they would be perfect.

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Chorba with Ras el-Hanout & Noodles
(Serves 4)

3-4tbsp olive oil
2-3 whole cloves
2 onions (or 1 very large)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 butternut squash
2 celery sticks, scrubbed and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
8 large ripe tomatoes
or
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes (if using decrease amount of stock or water – see recipe)
1tsp sugar
1tbsp tomato purée (optional)
1-2tsp Ras el-Hanout
½tsp ground turmeric
large handful chopped fresh coriander (reserve a few leaves to garnish)
2-2½ pints vegetable stock (adjust amount if using tomatoes – see recipe)
or
1tsp-1tsp vegetable stock powder, made up with 2-2½ water/tinned tomatoes
1½oz sheet of egg noodles, broken up a little
Salt & ground black pepper
Yoghurt to serve

1.  Peel and de-seed the squash and cut into chunks. Place in a heavy pan with the olive oil, cloves, onion, crushed garlic, celery and carrots.  Fry gently together until they just start to brown.

2.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes or the chopped up contents of the tin of tomatoes and the sugar.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the tomato purée, Ras el-Hanout, turmeric and chopped fresh coriander.  Pour in the stock or add the stock powder and water.

4.  Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-40minutes.   The vegetables should be very tender and the liquid reduced a little.

5.  The soup can either be puréed until completely smooth or left chunky with a thinner sauce.  I compromised, liquidising half the soup to thicken the sauce whilst still leaving some chunks.

6.  Return the puréed soup to the pan, add the broken noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes until the pasta is soft.

7.  Season to taste and spoon into soup bowls.  Add a swirl of yoghurt to each portion and garnish with a fresh coriander leaf or two.  Serve with crusty bread.

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I missed Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer series the first time it was shown on television, but have caught the repeats on UKTV Good Food this summer.  Za’atar chicken is lovely for a hot summer day.  It needs some advance preparation but can simply be popped in the over to cook when required.  The chicken is amazingly moist and delicious … need I say more!  Nigella suggests serving Za’atar Chicken with Fattoush, a North African/Middle Eastern salad containing toasted pitta bread, which I have already posted.  It is a wonderful combination of flavours and both are recipes I shall be making again and again.  Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad could be served as an additional dish if needed.

The recipe can be found in the book of the series, Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson.  This recipe was part of the ‘Amber’ TV programme: each episode is named after a colour, with the recipes fitting each title.  Clever, although the book is more traditionally laid out.  I am sure that this recipe could also be cooked on a Barbecue, although I have not tried it (suggest a brief pre-cook in the microwave before barbecuing to make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked).  I did some research and found a recipe for Za’atar mixture and made my own as I had all the ingredients in the cupboard.  Za’atar Spice Mixture (click for recipe already posted on this site) is simply a combination of roasted sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, oregano and salt.  It is aromatic and definitely not spicy, the sumac giving it a lemony flavour.  I have chosen to be more generous with the Za’atar mixture as we love the flavour.  I used the chicken thighs suggested in the recipe but the Za’atar Mixture would be good, I’m sure, liberally spread over a whole roasted chicken.

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Za’atar Chicken
(Serves 4)

4 large chicken thigh pieces (with or without skin)
4 tbsp olive oil
4tbsp Za’atar Spice Mixture 
Salt, preferably sea salt

1.  Remove the skin from the chicken pieces if you wish before marinading.  Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish or tin.

2.  Spoon over olive oil and za’atar mixture.  Turn pieces in the dish so they are well covered.  Season and cover.  Alternatively the chicken pieces can be placed in a large plastic bag with the oil, za’atar mixture and seasoning.

3.  Place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  If using a china dish then remove from the fridge and bring up to room temperature to avoid breakage.

4.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7.   Place the dish in the centre of the oven, covering for about 20 minutes, then removing the cover and cooking for 35-45 minutes in total, or until cooked through to the bone. 

5.  Serve with Fattoush Salad and possibly with Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad as an extra.

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Ratatouille Niçoise or Provençale, is usually associated with France, in particular the region of Provençe, however its ingredients and flavours are commonly found throughout the Mediterranean.  I find it makes sense to make an extra large quantity as it freezes well.  This very convenient recipe can use freshly made or frozen (and completely defrosted) Ratatouille.  It can be assembled quickly using frozen white fish and fresh spinach plus the flavourings and seasonings.

The recipe, originally called Moroccan Fish Fillets, was printed on a Sainsbury’s free instore recipe card in the Feed your family for a Fiver series.  I have no idea whether the original recipe is authentically Moroccan, but it did not include any of the seasonings I usually associate with the region.  This is my adaptation of the original recipe adding some of these flavours, hence the name change.  I substituted spinach for the leafy spring greens that were originally suggested, but in a smaller quantity, plus I used home made Ratatouille Niçoise/Provençale (with our usual favourite added dried orange peel) in place of the tinned version. (As the home made Ratatouille already contains Herbes de Provence adding mixed herbs is unnecessary.)  Additionally, I added Pickled or Preserved Lemon and Ras el-Hanout spice mixture (my home made version), with sumac powder and fresh coriander to serve.  The original recipe also included a tin of chick peas to be mixed with couscous as part of an accompanying side dish.  This recipe is good when accompanied by my own recipe for Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad.

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North African Style Fish Fillets
(Serves 4)

1 bunch of Spinach (original used Spring greens)
Ratatouille Niçoise/Provençale, quantity to feed four
½-1tsp Ras el-Hanout
4 pieces of frozen (or fresh) white fish fillet: pollock, cod or haddock
Slices of Pickled or Preserved Lemon, plus a little of the preserving juice
Olive oil
Salt & black pepper
Sumac powder to sprinkle (to taste)
Fresh coriander, chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/Fan 190oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2.  Chop the spinach, rinse and place, without precooking, in a large ovenproof dish.

3.  Stir the Ras el-Hanout into the Ratatouille Niçoise/Provençale and pour over the spinach.

4.  Top with the pieces of frozen fish (no need to de-frost) and top each piece of fish with one or two slices of preserved/pickled lemon.  Spoon a little of the juice from the jar of lemons over each fillet along with a little olive oil. 

5.  Sprinkle with a little sumac powder and season with some salt and black pepper.

6.  Cover with aluminium foil making sure the dish is completely covered so the flavours are sealed in.

7.  Bake for 45 minutes, until the fish is completely cooked through, removing the foil for the last 5 minutes or so.

8.  Serve with a little more sumac and chopped fresh coriander (not dried) sprinkled over, accompanied by couscous.

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It is possible to detect the influence of France in Moroccan cuisine, not unsurprising as the countries have historical links.  This dessert feels as if it is closely related to the French dish Clafoutis (or it’s close relative Flognarde), although the egg custard is replaced by a sweet ground rice pudding mixture.  However the addition of rose water (or orange flower water, which is listed as an alternative) firmly connects this dish with the southern shores of the Mediterranean.  The suggestion of rice pudding might make the casual reader feel that this is a rather homely dish, as they are usually linked with nursery food rather than dinner parties.  However this would make an unusual and delicious dessert as part of N African style meal, especially made in individually sized portions.

The recipe comes from a wonderful book I found in the library, Illustrated Food and Cooking of Africa and the Middle East: A Fascinating Journey Through the Rich and Diverse Cuisines of Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey and Lebanon by Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood (to give it its full title).  The ingredients are all as listed in the book, except I found it necessary to increase both the ground rice and sugar by 1tbsp.  This increase of the sugar content  is, of course, optional but is recommended for those with a sweet tooth as plums can often be acidic.  I made the original suggestion of Plums combined with Rosewater, but other fruits could also be used.  Orange flower water is a suggested alternative addition and I can imagine that this would be delicious used in combination with Apricots or Peach.  The addition of flaked almonds adds a lovely crunch to the smooth texture of the ground rice: don’t be tempted to omit them. Finally, I added a generous dusting of icing sugar, which enhanced the cracks in the surface of the plums and where their juices had run into the whiteness of the rice.  I further handful of toasted flaked almonds on top would be a good addition, athough not included in the original recipe, particularly for a special occasion.  I am sure this recipe could be made a short while in advance and reheated just before serving, although I would add the sifted icing sugar and additional split almonds just before taking it to the table.

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Moroccan Style Plum Pudding
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb fresh plums (alternative suggestions – apricots, cherries or greengages)
600ml/1pt skimmed or semi-skimmed (half fat) milk
60ml/4tbsp ground rice
45ml/3tbsp cold water
45ml/3tbsp caster sugar (15ml/1tbsp extra for those with a sweet tooth)
75g/3ozs flaked almonds – reserve a few to toast for decoration (or add a few more)
30ml/2tbsp rosewater (alternatively orange flower water)
icing sugar to dust

1.  Preheat the oven to 190oC/370oF/Gas 5.

2. Remove the stones from the plums and halve them.

3.  Bring the milk to the boil in a pan.

4.  Blend the ground rice with the cold water, a little at a time, mixing well to remove the lumps.  Pour the hot milk over the rice and return it to the pan.  Simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it thickens.

5.  Stir in the caster sugar and flaked almonds.  Continue to cook for 5 more minutes.  

6.  Stir in the rosewater (or orange flower water).  Simmer for 2 minutes.

7.  Butter a shallow ovenproof dish.  Carefully pour in the almond rice mixture.

8.  Gently arrange the prepared plums (or other fruit) on top, spacing them as evenly as possible.

9.  Bake for 25-30minutes, until the fruit has softened.  As it cooks the fruit juices will run slightly into the white almond-rice mixture, which is unavoidable.

10.  Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately with a little pouring cream or crème fraîche if you like a slightly more sour taste.

11.  Scatter with a few toasted split almonds to decorate.

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Unflavoured, couscous is really unexciting.  However, flavoured with oils, lemon and herbs or spices it can be transformed into a delicious accompaniment not just for North African dishes, but as a side dish for simply grilled meat or as part of a cold or warm buffet.

This is my variation on a recipe from the book Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookbook. I have several books by this well known vegetarian writer who introduced a BBC vegetarian cookery series in the 1980’s. (See my version of the original recipe: Chickpea & Couscous Salad.) I have changed or substituted some of the ingredients for this version: the original included 1tsp miso (shoyu or soy sauce could be substituted) and 1tsp lemon juice, which I have changed to preserved/Pickled Lemon – also lots (and lots) of chopped fresh Coriander (and it must be fresh).  This is a simple unspicy dish, but would be good with a sprinkling of Sumac, a commonly used eastern spice (see recipe for Grilled Chicken with Sumac & Roasted Banana) or, for a hotter taste, add ½-1tsp Ras el-Hanout or Harissa paste at the same time as the oils.  Cooked couscous keeps for several days in the fridge and may be frozen for up to three months and should be thoroughly defrosted before it is eaten.  If it has coriander added the flavour could be affected when defrosted.

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Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad
(Serves 4)

225g/8ozs couscous
400g/14oz tin chick peas, drained & rinsed
570ml/1 pint boiling water
30ml/2tbsp olive oil
15ml/1tbsp sesame oil
15ml/1tbsp chopped preserved/Pickled Lemon or lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
5/6 chopped spring onions or ½ red onion, finely chopped
4-6 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (depending on personal taste)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Sumac powder (optional)

1.  Place the couscous, drained chick peas, oils, garlic, spring onion and chopped lemon or lemon juice in a large heatproof bowl or jug.

2.  Pour over the boiling water and mix together with a fork.  The couscous will absorb the liquids quite quickly.

3.  Add the fresh coriander, reserving a little as a garnish if you wish, and season.

4.  If it is to be eaten hot, this salad should be made just before it is served as it cools quickly.  (If necessary, it can be briefly reheated in a microwave, but may need a little more water if this is done although it is best not made too far in advance.)  Alternatively it can be left to cool and is ideal served cold, perhaps as part of a buffet.  

5.  Sprinkle with reserved coriander, or a few individual leaves and a little sumac powder (optional) or ground black pepper.

100_4946 Chickpea Couscous Salad

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Chickpea & Couscous Salad
Here is my version of the original recipe by Sarah Brown.  Good hot or cold.

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I am experimenting with some North African recipes at the moment but also, as always, trying to be mindful of not overdoing it with the calories in day-to-day dishes.  For this reason it is always good to find something that sounds tasty but falls into the ‘not quite so naughty’ category.  (Eating this recipe cannot guarantee a smaller waistline but it is certainly not an unhealthy option.)

Some weeks ago, in a charity shop, I found a copy of The Time to Eat Cookbook by Sîan Davies, a book published by the diet help organisation WeightWatchersAlthough I am not following the WeightWatchers regime there are some delicious and simple recipes in the book, following sensible healthy eating rules.  All give an idea of the total calorie numbers, but as I am slightly adapting the original recipe I shall not be including this information.  However, as the changes are mostly healthy options, this recipe broadly keeps to the ideals of the original.  The changes I have made are: using Ras el-Hanout, a North African Spice Mix which can be bought ready made or mixed at home, the option of tinned plum tomatoes in place of fresh ones and the addition of chopped preserved/Pickled Lemon, which is popular in cooking across North Africa.  Alternatively, dried fruit (raisins, dried apricot or prunes), which are also often used in North African dishes, could be added in place of or as well as the pickled lemon and/or aubergine.  This would obviously affect the calorie count of the dish, giving bigger portions.  I have chosen not to add any calorie counting details to my recipes.

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Moroccan Style Lamb & Rice Pilaf
(Serves 4) 

350g/12ozs lean lamb mince or diced lean lamb
1tsp olive oil (or less, leave this out and dry fry if possible)
1 large onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2tsp Ras el-Hanout (originally ½tsp each ginger & cinnamon plus 1tsp paprika)
1 aubergine, diced & salted
225g/8ozs courgettes, diced – if small ones then sliced
225g/8ozs long grain rice, pre-soaked and drained in at least 2 changes of water
220ml/½pt/10fl ozs water and 2tsp vegetable stock, or lamb stock if available
400g/14oz can plum tomatoes, diced 
          or
450g/1lb chopped fresh tomatoes (plum type if available) & a little water, as needed
2tbsp chopped preserved/Pickled Lemon (optional)
2tbsp chopped fresh mint, reserving a little to garnish
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.  Fry the lamb mince for 5 minutes in as little extra oil as necessary, ideally using a non-stick pan should mean it can be dry fried.  Drain off any excess oil before continuing.

2.  Add the onion, garlic and Ras-el Hanout (or ginger, cinnamon and paprika).  Stir well.

3.  Drain the aubergines.  Add to the pan with the courgettes, juice from the tinned tomatoes (if using – set aside the drained tomatoes to stir in when the pilaf is almost finished), rice and stock.  (Any extra dried fruit should be added at this point.)  Bring to the boil. 

4.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is soft.  Check periodically to make sure that it does not boil dry.

5.  Add the tomatoes (or the drained tomatoes set aside when the liquid was used at stage 3), preserved lemon and most of the mint and heat through. 

6.  Transfer to a warmed dish and scatter over the remaining chopped mint before serving.

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This substantial dish, with the often used combination of lamb and chickpeas, is flavoured with sour preserved Pickled Lemons (simple to make at home) and hot chilli based Harissa paste, both commonly used flavours in North African cuisine.  Given a good slow cooking, either on the stove top or in a Tagine, the lamb is tender and soft.  It should be served with a simple couscous, perhaps flavoured with some of the juice from the pickled lemons and some additional coriander.  Alternatively it can be flavoured with some balsamic vinegar, some additional mint and some green peas.   I often add chick peas to couscous, unless they are already included in the main dish.

This recipe, originally named Moroccan Style Stewed Lamb with Pumpkin & Preserved Lemon by Antony Worrall Thompson comes from the UKTV food website.  I have adapted it slightly, using lamb fillet, reducing the amount of Harissa paste for a milder flavour and substituting tinned chopped tomatoes.  I have also added a cinnamon stick, a lovely complement to a lamb dish and a flavour traditionally used in the cooking of North Africa.

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Moroccan Lamb Stew with Pumpkin & Preserved Lemon
(Serves 4)

450g/1lb lean leg of lamb (I used lamb fillet)
1½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
400g/14fl oz tin of tomatoes, chopped or 4 skinned & chopped fresh tomatoes
1 tbsp harissa paste (use 1tsp for a milder taste)
1 cinnamon stick (optional – my addition)
325ml/12fl ozs water (425ml/15fl ozs  if using fresh tomatoes)
400g/14fl oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
350g/120zs peeled pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 preserved Pickled Lemon, finely diced (2-4 tbsp depending on personal taste)
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped coriander

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2 if using a Tagine, or a similar lidded pot.  Alternatively, this dish can be cooked on the stove top without using the oven.

2.  Cover the lamb with ground black pepper.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Brown the meat on all sides.

3.  Chop the onion and add it to the pan with the crushed garlic.  Cook until the onion is soft and slightly browned.  Add a little of the water if needed if the mixture starts to stick.

4.  Stir in the tomatoes, harissa paste and the water (or the remainder if some has been used already). 

5.  Heat to simmering, cover and cook on a medium heat for 1¼ – 1½ hours.  Alternatively, transfer mixture to a Tagine and bake in the oven.  Check periodically and top up with water if necessary.  Cook until the lamb is almost tender.

6.  Add the drained chickpeas and diced pumpkin.  Cook until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes more. 

7.  Chop the preserved lemon, mint and coriander, stir into the meat mixture. 

7.  Serve with simply flavoured couscous or flatbread.

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