Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Indian-Pakistani inspired curry: a Tikka masala-meets-jalfrezi on a bed of basmati rice

Having missed the smell of Indian and Pakistani food in my flat and having my mother over for a month, I thought I'll introduce her to a food she thinks is over-spiced, hot and always containing fenugreek.

She was not happy that the folks in the Sub-Asian continent have something similar to our Mlaouis (in the form of parathas) and Tannourt bread ( in the form of Tandoori bread)..

Today's recipe is rather a combination of chicken tikka masala and jalfrezi curry on a bed of Basmati rice with Saffron, lemon, cumin seeds and green cardamom. All is layered and finished cooking in a dum biryani style. What's not to like? We were 2 hungry women and we didn't leave a single grain of rice behind.

This recipe looks too long but it's so easy to make. The result is just worth it. It's so comforting and very satisfying.

My mother loved it and she asked for another "sample" of Indian/Pakistani food..How is that for a result?

Oh, and for the record, I got her hooked to mango chutney and garlic naans. Pretty proud of myself!

Serves 3 to 4
Prep: 5 min – marination time: minimum 2 hrs- cooking: 30-45 min
  • About 500g of chicken cut into chuncks (bones in) and marinated for at least a couple of hours (see below)
For the chicken marinade
  • 1 tbsp of minced Ginger 
  • 1 tsp of crushed Garlic
  • ¼ tsp. of Red Chilli Powder
  • ¼ tsp. of Turmeric Powder 
  • 1 tbsp. of Lemon Juice 
  • 1 tbsp of Tandoori powder or good Garam Masala or 2 tbsp of a good Tikka paste
  • 2 tbsp. of Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tbps of plain yogurt
For the curry (in order of use)
  • 5 Tablespoons clarified butter
  • About 6 to 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp of black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 Tablespoon jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • About 10 cm cinnamon stick broken into 3
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic and ginger paste (or grate them fresh)
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander powder - preferably home roasted and ground
  • 1 Tablespoon red chilli powder
  • About 10 cm cinnamon stick broken into 3
  • 1 tbsp of tikka paste (or use garam masala before the end of simmering)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp of chopped hot chili

To add 2 minutes before the end of curry-cooking stage
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut lenthwise
  • 1/2 red and/or bell pepper, cut lengthwise
  • ½ medium onion cut in quarters then halves (which makes 8 chuncks)
  • 1 tomato roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp of garam masala (if you haven’t used the tikka paste in the curry)
  • For garnishing
  • 1 tsp of slivered fresh ginger
  • A handful of coriander leaves
For the rice (7 to 8 min cooking in boiling water)
  • 1 cup of basmati rice (soaked for 30 min and washed 3 until water is clear)
  • ½ tsp of cumin seeds
  • 3 or 4 green cardamoms
  • A pinch of saffron threads
  • Less than 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 cup of rice needs 1 ¾ of water to cook it
 For the yoghurt-harissa dip (Adapted from  Jamie Oliver)
  • 1 cup of yoghurt
  • 1 tbps of harissa 
  • 2 tbps of chopped cucumber
  • A sprinkle of salt
  • A sprinkle of cumin seeds
  • A hint of freshly grated ginger


The curry

Melt the ghee in a hot wok or large frying pan. Add the spices, curry leaves and onions and allow to sizzle for about 30 seconds.

Once the onions are translucid, add the ginger and garlic paste, add the tikka paste if using it and stir. 
Add tomatoes and about ¼ cup of water. Let simmer for about 10 mins.

Pick up the curry leaves and the cinnamon stick and liquidize the sauce with a mixer. Put them back and set aside.

In a another pan, shallow-fry the chicken (or bake it until halfway cooked).

Add the sauce on the top of the chicken and let simmer, covered.

A couple of minutes after the sauce has reduced, add the onion slices, bell pepper, green chillies and tomato. Set aside

The Spices-scented basmati rice

Cook the rice for 7 to 8 minutes in boiling water, covered.

Once the rice is dry and cooked through, transfer 1/3 to a pyrex dish (or similar), layer the reduced 
curry, cover with the rest of the rice. Bake in a preheated oven at maximum for 10 min. I usually 
cover the dish with aluminium foil to trap the steam and allow the rice to infuse, just like for a dum 

Garnish with slivered ginger and chopped coriander.

The yoghurt dip

Mix all ingredients and serve on the side.

Note: I used a decent store-bought tikka paste but you can use any other paste you like (Indian-inspired). If you can't get hold of any, here's Jamie Oliver's post of how to make some of them. The recipes cover Jalfrezi, Korma, Rogan josh, Tikka Masala paste ......

Friday, 3 October 2014

Marinated olives the Moroccan way: 6 ways of making "zitoun mchermel"

This post is all about how to marinate cured olives the Moroccan way. As I have promised in the previous post about Moroccan olives, I'll pass on to you some of our family recipes on how to reproduce the marinated olives you find in the Moroccan stalls and Moroccan olive shops.

From left to right: Moroccan pickles, green olives with spinach and herbs, green and violette olives with harissa and garlic, plain pitted green olives

We have a few recipes which are so easy to make. So if you love olives, then you're in the right place.

Harissa all the way!

I'll be using 250g of olives for all the following recipes. I must say that the additions are all a matter of choice, so adding or reducing garlic, harissa, herbs is all up to you.

Green olives with garlic and fresh parsley and coriander in the making

Like I mentioned here, unpitted olives which are not floating in tons of brines are the best thing to get but if you really (but really) can't then the others will do.

This is an amazing mix I bought from the olives guy, he mixed marinated green olives pickles and rice, This goes straight in sandwiches or is added to briouats and rolls fillings, to seafood bestillas...

Notes before getting started

1- Depending on how they've been handled, some olives might be harder than others. Nothing wrong with that. However, if you have hard olives in your hands (as opposed to soft), then make sure you place them in boiling water for 15 min at least twice then drain and pat-dry them before going ahead with the marination.

2- A pestle and mortar is much better to obtain the pastes used for the marinades. 

4- These recipes are mostly to guide you to on how to get some of those pastes commonly used by Casablanca olive shops (If you happen to be there, grab a taxi and head to Benjdia Market (7 am to 5 pm) in downtown Casablanca or Friday's market or Marche Jem'aa not far from El Houbous.

Today's recipes are all in here!

250g of unpitted olives (ideally done by you)
Prep: 5 min - No cooking required

1- Olives with chermoula (any kind)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or in paste
  • 3 tbps of fresh parsley and coriander, finely chopped 
  • 1 to 2 tbsp of preserved lemons with the core, chopped
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne or 1 heaped tsp of mild harissa,  or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 3 tbsps of olive oil.
The soft black olives are marinated with chermoula made using a pestle and mortar (we were generous with the preserved lemons)

2- Olives with harissa
  • 2 tbsps of mild harissa or to taste
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or in paste (optional)
  • 3 tbsps of olive oil
Harissa can be mild or hot. We prefer the mild version because it brings the flavour without disturbing the palate

3- Olives with thyme and garlic (goes well with soft Moroccan black olives)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of dried thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or in paste 
  • Enough olive oil to cover half of the olives (which I use for cooking or for salads)
  • Zest of 1 lemon (optional)

4- Olives with dried herbs and garlic (goes well with soft Moroccan black olives)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of dried thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, bay leaf
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or in paste 
  • 3 tbsps of olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon (optional)

    5- Olives with tuna and harissa (ideally with sliced the green olives)
    • 50g of tuna (in a tin)
    • The oil from the tuna (optional, replace with olive oil)
    • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or in paste (optional)
    • 1 tbsp of mild harissa
    • 2 tbps of chopped pickles including cauliflower, green and red pepper, carrots, gherkins, cabbage (optional)
    Usually, if the green olives and cut this way they catch more of the tuna marinade

    6- Pitted green olives with spinach paste (chopped green olives will do as well)
    • 1 cup of poached spinach and squeezed to drain, finally chopped (poach in hot water for 1 min then dip them in ice-cold water for another minute then put them in a strainer)
    • 2 -3 tbsp of olive oil
    • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or in paste (optional)
    • 1/2 cup of parsley and coriander, in fine paste using a pestle and mortar
    • 1 tbps of preserved lemons with the core, finelly chopped (optional)
    You could more be generous with the spinach mix but this picture is showing the minimum you could go for
    how beautiful does this spinach and preserved lemon green olives cone looks?


    Mix all ingredients and keep in a clean jar for at least 48 hrs before serving. Keep in the fridge at all times.

    The version with tuna should be consumed within 3 days. For the rest, anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks.

    I can't have enough olives in my house!

    Thursday, 2 October 2014

    Moroccan olives and olive oil

    Today's post is about olives, olives and olives.

    We're all about olive oil and olives in Morocco. We have different varieties of both and we consume masses and masses of them.

    We like our olive oil cold pressed and unfiltered.

    In fact, I used to spend my childhood vacations on the top of an old "m'aassra", these are the olive oil producing units where the oil is (used to be, in my time) extracted in the most traditional way. there was a whole level of flats all smelling olive and olive oil that it does not make any difference passed a few hours of my presence in the flat..I have to mention that the primary schools in Morocco used to give 3 months vacation, out of which half will be spent in Fes with my aunties.

    So olives are in my blood, so to say.

    The main variety of olive in Morocco is "Moroccan picholine" but there are many others.

    We eat olives, we extract oil from them and use the rests to make soap/black soap. We also cook with them (chicken m'qualli with olives here, hmmmm or potato and chicken tagine here which is a nation-favourite to name a few).

    Basically, these sellers in Ben'jdia Market (Casablanca) have all what's needed for a yummy olives and tuna sandwich or cheese and olives or cold cuts and olives, harissa is on request but don't skip it! Here is a snack/meal on the go.

    So, what do you thing of these olives coming with grated cold cuts and chopped pickles (see below)?

    And how about those purple olives which we mostly use in chicken tagines and as a garnish with some salads.

    Years and years ago (even now but lesser), I used to see my family members getting their massive buckets of olives from Fes. Then my mother would cure them herself. My parents always loved Meslala as well as the black picholine but left slightly bitter after a few days of curing, while we, the children, preferred the olives with a milder taste and with different marinations. Any olive connoisseur will advise you to buy unpitted olives because they taste much better than pitted ones, especially if you buy them in a brine. Actually, selling unpitted olives in a watery brine should be illegal!

    The good news, you don't have to cure your olives from scratch unless you are lucky to get hold of them straight from the tree. If you have visited Morocco or are from there, you are familiar with streets of olive shops who sell them in different colours and marinades..

    My next post will be about how to marinate cured olives the Moroccan way! I hope you'll be back to check!

    Stay tuned....


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