Mourad New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou – review

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.

Mourad New Moroccan 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 It was originally made with squab or pigeon but many of us have a prejudice and associate that game bird with the scruffy, limping, sickly articles that flutter around grimy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 simple sophistication.

Mourad New Moroccan
Author: Mourad Lahlou
Published by: Workman Publishing
Price: £25.00
ISBN-10: 1579654290
ISBN-13: 978-1579654290


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018