The parcel arrived and immediately we couldn’t wait to open it up and see what treats were awaiting us inside. This was Sous Chef The Food of Morocco Book Set and the box was packed full of goodies.
Established by Nicola and Nick Lando in 2012 and based in London, Sous Chef is ‘the shop for people who love cooking’ and they promise to deliver on six key ingredients; flavour, discovery, provenance, excitement, knowledge and service. With a focus on bringing delicious and sometimes less widely known ingredients to your kitchen alongside unique inspiration to encourage you to try new dishes. They have scoured the globe to bring you unique flavours and spices and ingredients that when combined create stunningly flavoursome dishes that you’ll be wanting to try again and again and share with your friends and family.
Sous Chef sent us the ‘Food of Morocco’ Book Set, written by Paula Wolfert. A parcel of ingredients for £50.00 drawn from Moroccan pantry staples. A fine selection including, Argan oil, Cubeb peppercorns, orange blossom water, saffron, Ras el hanout, paprika and rose buds. The team at Sous Chef have expertly sourced these pantry staples that are so common to Moroccan cuisine so that you can bring a taste of the country to your own kitchen. We spent a weekend reading through the delicious sounding recipes, selecting a few and sourcing the rest of the ingredients.
“In one corner, near the archway leading to the souks, is the fruit market, where the red-gold branches of unripe dates for animal fodder are piled up in great stacks, and dozens of donkeys are coming and going, their panniers laden with fruit and vegetables which are being heaped on the ground in gorgeous pyramids; purple aubergines, melons, cucumbers, bright orange pumpkins, mauve and pink and violet onions, rusty crimson pomegranates, and the gold grapes of Sefrou and Salé, all mingled with fresh green sheaves of mint and wormwood.” Edith Wharton.
Paula Wolfert is a world reknown expert in Moroccan cuisine having fallen in love with it since she first visited over 50 years ago when she was 19. Ever since then she has learnt traditional of cooking techniques and ingredients that have all come together in this fabulous book that is so evidently heavily researched. Paula’s book is so much more than a simple recipe book. It’s a textbook, a source of knowledge for not only Moroccan cuisine, but the culture of Morocco too. It’s depth of research comes through its pages, not only in their presentation but also quality. The clear organization of the information and dishes make this a fitting tribute to a country whose depth of flavours is as diverse as its heritage.
‘This book is a distillation of everything I know about Moroccan cuisine, everything I have learnt about it during my fifty-year love affair with that country and its food. Always I have found myself coming back to Morocco, haunted by the tastes and aromas of the inimitable food that enveloped me through my early sojourns in Tangier.’ Paula Wolfert.
Emily and I spent a great deal of time perusing the pages deciding which dishes to try our hand at. We eventually settled (albeit initially) on two. There would be plenty of time for further cooking if these two turned out to be delicious. The whole experience most certainly requires a good amount of time and the Food of Morocco book set most definitely isn’t a quick dinner experience. The pack of ingredients that you receive will not suit every meal, so initially we made a list of meals that used the most. Our first two forays into Moroccan cuisine would be a Chicken with fennel, preserved lemon and olives. We planned to serve this alongside a grated cucumber salad with orange flower water. Initially there was a little prep work to be done, such as making saffron water out of the amazing coloured and scented saffron spice. The colouring that this affords to water when mixed is really something special. Also, the chicken asked for preserved lemons and as we didn’t have months to prepare these, they had to be purchased at our local supermarket. Preserved lemons are a real staple of Moroccan cuisine. Fortunately the book does teach you how to make them, amongst a whole list of other cuisine staples such as saffron water and Amlou, a brown coloured dip. Preserved lemons are typically used in many dishes from salads to tagines. Paula even suggests that they may be the most important condiment in a Moroccan kitchen.
We decided on the cucumber salad as we learnt that it’s a perfect dish for late summer in Morocco. The orange flower water has a very distinct smell that is unlike anything else and gives the salad a wonderfully sweet and aromatic flavour. This coupled with a sprinkling of Ceylon cinnamon just before serving transform the typically plain cucumber in to a salad to be talked about! Although to be honest, we probably added a little too much caster sugar making it slightly too sweet, however we learn from our mistakes don’t we.
The chicken with fennel has been described by Mustapha Haddouch (a US importer of great spices, lemons and olives) as ‘bright on the palate’ and one of his favourite comfort foods. The flavours of ginger, saffron, aniseed and fennel, to name just some of the mix that goes in to this dish, really add depth to the chicken.
Sous Chef is a great website that inspires your cooking from a number of angles. If you’re a fan of cooking or simply looking for a little inspiration then the website is a treasure trove of ingredients and cooking packs to be experienced together. So what are you waiting for, spend a day learning, preparing and cooking great food!