Modern cuisine from the place where the sun sets

Make it Moroccan - Out of Africa's Hassan M'Souli

By Sara Schwarz
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Make It Moroccan - Hassan M'Souli

Make It Moroccan - Hassan M'Souli [©New Holland]

 

My introduction to Moroccan cuisine was as a teenager when I ventured with friends to the seemingly ‘mean streets’ of Sydney’s Newtown. There we dined at Hassan M’Souli’s Out of Africa Restaurant (now located in Manly), and my love affair with the rich and spicy foods of the region was born. 

Make It Moroccan: modern cuisine from the place where the sun sets is M’Souli’s second release, the first being Moroccan Modern in 2005. M’Souli is considered one of Australia’s gurus on Moroccan cuisine and in case we needed any further proof, this book has just been awarded the Best in the World in the African Cuisine Category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2010.

Nestled in to the north western edge of Africa and a hair’s breadth from Europe, over the centuries Moroccan cuisine has taken its pick of the various culinary cultures that have passed through. Here spice is king, and Moroccans have taken traditional African and European ingredients intertwining them with a myriad of herbs and spices to create rich flavours and aromas. Being on the coast, seafood features throughout this book but not as heavily as one might assume and the recipes are well balanced out with other meat dishes, salads and sweets.

A one time Roman outpost, wine flowed freely until the eighth century when Islam was adopted and the only vines left standing were for table grapes. It wasn’t until Morocco became a French Protectorate in the early 20th century that wine production began again. Today a small number of red and rose wines are produced locally. Little white wine is produced however some equally refreshing local beers can be found along with the ubiquitous mint tea and Arabic coffee.

In this book M’Souli highlights ways to best use a number of the key ingredients for Moroccan cuisine, namely the ever present tagine, couscous, pomegranates and of course herbs and spices.

The tagine with its wide flat base and funnel shaped top has developed a cult following in recent times. M’Souli offers up a unique variety of recipes to use the tagine for including breakfast tajines of sausage, egg and tomato, a tempting sounding quail and goat’s cheese tagine, and a duck with cumquat and glazed turnip dish. This is a truly versatile kitchen device. An interesting note is that traditionally the hollow nob on the top of the tagine was used as a kind of timer. Water was added to the nob at the start of cooking and when a set amount of water evaporated from it, the tagine meal was deemed ready.

A whole chapter is dedicated also to saffron and saffron based recipes as well it should. One hectare of crocus flowers yields a miniscule one kilogram of saffron and 14,000 stigmas make up only one ounce (less than 30 grams). M’Souli advises purchasing only in the stigma form as powdered saffron can too easily be ‘cut’ with fillers and imitations such as tumeric. It also loses its flavour more easily.

For a sweet tooth like myself, the desserts are a delight featuring such winners as a simple lime and pomegranate cheesecake and the most divine sounding lemongrass, saffron and rose crème brulee which seems almost too easy to make with only six ingredients and four straightforward steps. Sure to become a dinner party favourite. 

Overall, this book is a joy to browse through. The recipes are an inspiring mix of ingredients familiar to European and African cuisines and won’t be a challenge for anyone who enjoys cooking. And as all good recipe books are, Make It Moroccan is a true feast for the senses. Vivid photography of the recipes, spice markets, landscape, architecture and people by Graeme Gillies jump out at every turn of the page.

Possibly the only ingredient you’ll have difficulty sourcing is that of argan oil, made from the crushed nut of the argan tree. This tree grows only in the south west of the country and has been protected by UNESCO since 1999. A possible usurper of white truffle oil for its drizzle-ability, you just may have to make your way to Out of Africa Restaurant and ask the master yourself how to get your hands on some. It’ll be well worth the trip.

 

Make It Moroccan: modern cuisine from the place where the sun sets by Hassan M'Souli is published by New Holland (2009; pb) RRP $45.00. Subscribers and Members of VisitVineyards.com and Winepros Archive can purchase Make it Moroccan from our book partners Seekbooks at 12.5% discount off RRP (postage extra).

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  • Sydney (NSW)

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April 14th, 2010
 
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