Hello Friends. I returned from Morocco earlier this week and am still working out my emotions about the experience. I tried to articulate it here, but I may not have conveyed the intensity of what I'm feeling. And that's okay - it was a highly personal experience. I'm happy to be with my family once again and to be back in the kitchen.
It took me a bit of time to really figure out the beauty of the Moroccan cuisine. We spent our first few days staying in a riad near the souks surrounded by tourist trap restaurants with menus full of pizzas, pastas and tagines. Tagines, if you are unfamiliar, are stews - most often made with lamb or chicken - in a broth with vegetables. I had some average tagines and some extraordinary ones. But, having been rather unfamiliar with the food of the region, thought that maybe this was the extent of my explorations. It was not until we moved to Peacock Pavilions, where our Instant Love retreat was being held, that the explosion of flavors came to my attention. The cooking staff put together beautiful meals - so much so that I can say without doubt it was the best food I ate on the trip. Dishes were dusted in saffron and coriander - infused with rosemary, garnished with preserved lemons from the property - they were magical.
Something that was always present, at every meal we ate, was Kesra. Sold by the cart full in the medina and in the loveliest of restaurants, Kesra is a cornmeal based Moroccan flat bread. We smeared jam on it the mornings, dipped it into soups in the afternoon and sopped up the juices from our tagines in the evenings. It was the soul of each gathering and what I most wanted to recreate upon returning home. My aunt lent me her copy of Ghille Basan's Modern Moroccan and this recipe is from that book. I added a heaping of rosemary to the dough - I couldn't help it. We were surrounded by olive trees and rosemary bushes on this trip and every time Kesra was served at Peacock Pavilions, they added sprigs of rosemary to the bowl, it seemed like a natural marriage. I also created a soup loosely based on one of the recipes in the book - one that marries some of my favorite flavors of the country.
4 c. bread flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
1 t. salt
1 T. dry rosemary
1/2 t. dry yeast
1 t. sugar
2 1/2 c. warm water
2 T. melted butter
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with 1 T. of cornmeal.
In a large bowl sift flour, remaining cornmeal, salt and rosemary together and set aside.
In a smaller bowl mix sugar and yeast and add 1/4 c. of warm water. Let this sit for about 5 minutes or until the yeast begins to cloud and bubble slightly.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the melted butter and yeast mixture; begin to mix with a wooden spoon - adding the remaining water to the dough as you work.
Once combined, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin to knead adding extra flour as needed (I added up to an additional cup at this point). Once formed and thoroughly kneaded, divide the dough in half and create two round discs. Place them on your baking sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Let them rise in a warm place for about an hour, then poke holes into the dough with your finger every 1/4 inch or so over the surface of the bread. I used a fork and wish I hadn't!
Bake at 425F for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350F for the remaining 15-20 minutes.
PUMPKIN AND CHICKPEA SOUP
1 T. olive oil
2 clvs. garlic (minced)
4 c. organic chicken broth (veggie is fine as well)
2 15-oz. cans of organic pureed pumpkin
1/2 c. half+half
1 t. cinnamon
2 t. coriander
2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. black pepper
1 can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
In a stock pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic - cook garlic until it just beings to turn gold.
Add broth and then whisk in pumpkin and spices. Let cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.
Whisk half+half in and add chickpeas. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve dusted with coriander and plenty of Kesra.
p.s. I will share some Instagram snapshots, Polaroids and one more favorite recipe from Morocco next week - and a playlist that became my soundtrack during the voyage. Until then...