Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mid-spring Moroccan dinner

Hesitant spring, sun and warmth mixed in with rain and fresh winds. The weather calls for some light middle-eastern fare - something Moroccan. Good friends for dinner last night, all good cooks, so some effort needed in the kitchen - but in the 8th month of pregnancy, one can't stand on one's feet for too long.

I decide to make a lamb tagine with a tomato "jam" and string beans, which are awaiting their fate in the fridge. Paula Wolfert's recipe. Easy enough, and rather quick. Garlic and ginger, and ras-al-khanout which I add, saffron; add the cubed meat, get it to colour all over, add grated onion and tomato juice (I used Pomì), and salt. Simmer, covered, for about 1 hour. Once enough juice is made, use a cup of it in which to simmer the green beans, in a different saucepan, with chopped parsley and coriander. Once the meat is tender, take it out of the pan, add a big can of tomatoes (pelati) - in the summer one would use ripe fresh ones -with a little sugar and cinnamon, crush the tomatoes, boil down to about 1-2 cups, then put the meat back in, add chopped parsley and coriander, and it's done. Meanwhile, I soaked the Basmati rice, with which I served the tagine - colouring the rice, as ever, with curcuma and a little saffron.

I was going to serve this also with carrots cooked Moroccan-style - boiled whole, then chopped in roundels, seasoned with lemon, olive oil, ground cumin, coriander and parsley. Instead I served those carrots as a starter - and with tahina, which I hadn't made in years because it's so calorific. Old home recipe, as my father used to make it: buy a jar of sesame paste (preferably with the oil already separated so one can discard it, to reduce the fat a little). Mix in the juice of 3 or 4 lemons, depending on the lemons and how much paste you are using, until you get the right acidity (tahini is very alkaline). Add enough water to have a manageable, not overly thick nor overly liquid, cream-like mixture. Add lots of finely chopped parsley, salt, and half a garlic clove, crushed (I boiled it beforehand to avoid garlicky pungency). Delicious with the carrots, and some Gaeta olives. Wines: first a St-Joseph brought by one set of friends, then a Cote du Rhone by Texier.

Then, simple rucola salad and cheese, then unapologetically not home-made ice-cream. Boisterous, fun dinner-party that was. Lots of dishes tonight for some reason, but everyone helped out, and husband managed to get them all done in two machine loads. Another friend appeared at around 11:00pm and we had lemon verbena tisane over wonderful anecdotes and much laughter.