Labneh is Middle Eastern strained yogurt cheese. You can make it by simply straining yogurt overnight to rid it of whey and turn it into a thick, creamy spread or dip. You can strain it longer to make thicker fresh cheese that’s firm enough to shape into balls, patties or logs and dredge in herbs, nuts and spices of all kinds.
In the villages right outside of Marrakesh in every direction that takes to the Berber mountains, you’ll find a fantastic bread called tafernout. It is a flat bread made from leavened or unleavened dough baked in a clay oven on a bed of pebbles or medium stones. I have never seen any flat bread like it.
When I lived in Morocco, tafernout was unheard of in cities or anywhere close by; it was reserved to remote villages where it had been secludedly baked for generations. Its popularity has crept up over the years that it is now available as soon as you drive a kilometer or two away from the city at rural joints and roadside restaurants everywhere in the South.
This is another dessert I have made more than twice in the last couple of weeks. The reason is when I make four servings I eat three of them and have only one left for John and Maya to fight over (baby’s fault, of course!). The first time, John got to it first; Maya pouted for days. I had to make it again so I can have my three servings (!!) and leave one for Maya. This time I made sure she got it. Seeing that everybody liked it I made it a third time.
You see, with desserts this easy and quick to make, you’re really tempted to bake more often.
This flan is very fruity and a tad less custardy than other flans—it has a light bite to it because of the ground almonds. It is puffed up like a soufflé when it comes out of the oven but quickly shrinks to about three thirds of its size as it cools down. The bubbling caramelized strawberry syrup that forms around the flan makes it soo irresistible.
I have no doubt that if you make this flan, you’ll want to make it again, and again.
There is a Moroccan country soup that’s so simple yet so delicious. You never see it in books or recipe sites—perhaps because it’s so simple it doesn’t qualify as a recipe. It is made with lben (buttermilk) and couscous and, well…, nothing else. You either love it or you don’t. Nobody I know has a middle opinion about it.
I am one who loves it. I think you will too.
I have received a few email requests for Ramadan recipes and immediately thought of this buttermilk soup called saikok. I’m not sure if the name has a meaning but it sounds rustic like the soup itself. I thought something this traditional would be fitting for the holiday. I also thought the enzymes in the fermented milk would be healthful for the tummies of those fasting (and those who aren’t). I added celery, cucumber and basil for a fresher taste, added vitamins and a pretty green color (no longer so rustic-looking with the green color). It came out tangy, fragrant and refreshing—perfect for summer. And yes it is a cold soup; a Moroccan-style gazpacho, if you would!
I have previously written about argan oil and its multiple uses in cooking and beauty. This time I was able to see it made at the source. Much of argan oil is now industrially produced in large plants but much of it also is still made the old-fashioned way, and you can still experience the pleasure of seeing women sitting on the floor, a stone mill between their legs, making liquid gold by hand. Those women usually work for local cooperatives and collect decent profits.
There wasn’t any fruit on the trees when I visited but I have seen argan fruit before and it pretty much looks like an oversized green olive. The fruit is eaten by goats who spit out the pits when they’re done. The pits are collected by farmers to make argan oil. Take a look at the goats at work.
Take a moment to locate Agadir on the map. It’s on the Atlantic Ocean, south of Marrakesh, on the way to the desert. Agadir is often remembered for the devastating earthquake it suffered in 1960 which left much of the city destroyed and many of its inhabitants without homes. But Agadir has rebuilt itself well. It is now one of the newer looking cities in Morocco, with better infrastructure, less population, and less hustle. Though Agadir doesn’t have many historic monuments or cultural sites, it attracts flocks of European tourists seeking the sun in the middle of the winter. It is mainly a sea resort or station balnéaire, as referred to by the locals.
Agadir and southward is where much of the seafood in Morocco comes from. Places like Laayoune and the up-and-coming beach town of Dakhla provide the country with supplies of all kinds of fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen on site and delivered in chiller and freezer trucks daily.
Twice tested, this recipe works! The first time, I made it with mostly nectarines and a little bit of plum. The second time, I used nectarines and white peaches. Stone fruit is gorgeous right now, don’t you think? You simply can’t go wrong with any choice you make.
After breakfast, I set off for a long walk in the gardens. It was eight in the morning and the weather was still light and cool. The air had a ravishing smell that was a mix of jasmine, oleander and rose. The gardens were quiet except for the birds chirping and the gardeners tending to their plants and whispering a brief bonjour at the passage.
Ah, the gardens of La Mamounia, an oasis in the desert, a little piece of paradise.
Enchanting was my two-hour long stroll.
The breakfast buffet was of royal proportions. My pictures don’t do justice to how beautiful and copious it was.
This is not easy to announce. It actually feels a little awkward and I have been thinking of a good way to ease it into the conversation but figured that the best way to say it is just to say it. I’m not one to dance around the topic for too long. I think I can do it.
There has been something exciting going on, dear readers. Something other than cooking, taking pictures and eating (though it has a little bit to do with the latter). That thing has been making me hungry for large burgers with fries, chocolate chip cookies, pickles for breakfast, hot sauce with every meal, and more chocolate chip cookies. Let’s just say that the tiny little thing is making my relationship with food stronger than ever.
I am eating for two and loving it!!
I am five months along. I’m not very big yet and can still fool most people with the right shirt (not that I’m trying to – I think bumps are drop-dead gorgeous and besides, who wants to wear the right shirt all the time anyway!…) but I’m definitely getting pleasantly plump and will probably start showing soon (and shopping for cute maternity dresses!).
My family is very happy and I wanted to share our joy with you as well.