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Mourad New Moroccan
Mourad Lahlou might not be a familiar name to many of my
European readers but he has carved an illustrious reputation in
California as patron of the only Moroccan restaurant in the US with a
Michelin star – Aziza is a destination restaurant named after the
owner’s mother. Mourad has continued his rise to fame outside his
kitchen by winning the 2009 Iron Chef America by the largest margin in
the history of the programme.
I am surprised that Moroccan food isn’t more popular in the UK. It has
all the elements that we enjoy in ethnic food. It has aromatic spice
rather than searing heat, and lots of fresh ingredients and exotic
condiments. Middle Eastern restaurants in general are flourishing and
much of their popularity has to do with the establishment of shisha
terraces following the ban on smoking inside restaurants.
A good Moroccan restaurant will offer more than a smoker’s refuge in
the cruel world of clean air. The food is colourful and vibrant yet
subtle and exciting enough to tempt any committed puffer in from the
cold, be it a restaurant terrace or the exile of the back garden.
Mourad New Moroccan offers a veritable masterclass to enable a home
cook to transform his/her domestic kitchen into a modern Moroccan one.
Mourad offers a selection of basic recipes and techniques to support
the novice and then it’s on to some striking contemporary dishes that
have all the flavour characteristics of traditional Moroccan
favourites, but with some twists that will be appreciated by those who
are familiar with this cuisine.
Basteeya is a classic Moroccan pie. It was originally made with squab
or pigeon but many of us have a prejudice and associate that game bird
with the scruffy, limping, sickly articles that flutter around grimy
buildings and live off discarded fast food. I can see that an authentic
Basteeya might not be at the top of some people’s wish-list. Mourad
offers the reader a version using chicken which has now become the norm
even in Morocco. In every other way this is authentic, although
he has had to substitute phyllo pastry for the paper-thin hand-made
warqa pastry that is almost impossible to find. In his restaurant
Mourad did try to present a contemporary take on this much-loved pie
but his changes from the regular recipe resulted in hate mail and
temporary loss of business. The customer is always right.
My pick of the book is Kefta Tagine with custardy egg yolks. A kefta is
a meatball, and we all know what a tagine looks like. No need to invest
in that lidded dish, a deep frying pan or even a wok with a lid will
work just as well, although something attractive to bring to the table
would be the best choice. It’s an easy recipe and comforting, so just
serve some Moroccan bread to dip into those sunny, creamy yolks.
Moroccan mint tea is the finishing touch to any real Moroccan meal. The
usual pot is ornate and silver-metal but just as with the tagine you
can use what you have. Glass teapots are a good substitute but your
everyday pot will do the job. This refreshing drink is made with
gunpowder tea with tightly-curled leaves that unfurl when steeped in
boiling water. Plenty of mint and sugar are also necessary to prepare
the perfect cup, or glass, of Moroccan mint tea.
Mourad New Moroccan is a book garnished with anecdotes, colour and
delicious foods. Fill your home with the delicate aromas of the
Maghreb. This is a gift-quality book that will be a marvellous souvenir
of holidays in Morocco, or an introduction to Moroccan food in all its
Mourad New Moroccan
Author: Mourad Lahlou
Published by: Workman Publishing