Travelling Tales

 

Traditional handwashing before eating a meal in Morocco

Welcome,
to new subscribers, along with those who have been receiving these newsletters for many years. Thank you. Apologies I have not sent one since I left Australia but I have been busy travelling and hosting my culinary tours to Morocco and Puglia. I have managed to post regularly on Facebook and Instagram so hopefully you may have seen some of them? You can read previous newsletters here.

I am now in London and enjoying being back, but not the cold, wet and windy weather. I started this newsletter last Thursday but it has rather grown like Topsy with a glimpse of the time I spent in Morocco (below). So along with seeing family and friends this weekend it has taken me awhile to complete it – and not as fully as I would like. Next newsletter will report on my Puglia trip and then subsequently my recent time in France. I will try to keep my newsletters more regular but they won’t be coming out weekly until I return to Australia via Singapore.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to ask me your culinary or wine questions? We’ve had some great ones in the past. I am trialling something new this week: Know Your Ingredient (see below) – and I am happy to receive requests for this.

Please always feel free to email me with any requests or comments. 

Keep cooking and you’ll keep smiling– Lyndey x

Recipes of the week

CHICKEN, CHORIZO & LEMON TRAYBAKE
Such an easy recipe and you can even roast your brussels sprouts in it
GET MY RECIPE HERE
OVEN POACHED QUINCES WITH HONEY & STAR ANISE
Make the most of quince season with this easy but appealing recipe
GET MY RECIPE HERE

Fun with Wine

 

What is Pinot Grigio?

Pinot Grigio is an increasingly popular white wine. What is it? What about Pinot Gris? Just click on the arrow or here and it will take you through to YouTube to view it.
If you would like to see more of my videos on both food and wine, subscribe to my YouTube channel 
HERE or follow me on Instagram.

Morocco

At Scorpion House in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, the private home of Mike Richardson of Café Clock

Morocco is always a feast for the senses, the sights, the tastes, the sounds and the aromas. I visited for the first time in 1978, again in 1994 with the International Olive Oil Council and was delighted to host my second culinary tour there in late May/early April this year. It is such an ancient culture and civilisation and requires a different mindset to fully appreciate what it has to offer. Moroccans are kind, hospitable and respectful people and are so grateful that tourism is back helping their economy.

Morocco has a constitutional monarchy, though the king can wield ultimate power if necessary. Moroccans admire their king and furthermore are an incredibly inclusive and integrated society with many different religions and races living in harmony. We could all learn from that.

Following are just a few of the highlights of an unforgettable journey through the vibrant, flavoursome and historic landscapes of Morocco. 

Our adventure began in  Rabat, Morocco’s capital and a place where history and modernity blend seamlessly.  After welcome drinks and dinner (where briouats became a popular item to order throughout the tour), we kicked off with visits to several historic sites such as the unfinished mosque and the Rabat Royal Palace (one of many all over the kingdom), the Mausoleum of Mohamed V and the old fortress Chellah with views surrounding the city, setting the stage for the cultural immersion that was to follow. Contrasting with these historic sites was a glimpse into Rabat’s future was a quick drive by (we were not allowed to get out of the vehicle and take photos) of the new, as yet unopened, Rabat Grand Theatre, designed by the renowned Iraqi-British architect and artist, the late Zaha Hadid. The  futuristic design has her signature flowing lines and will be filled with state-of-the-art facilities. As we walked along, it was great to cheer along women in a half marathon – one in full hijab.

TOP L: Rabat Grand Theatre and R: Women’s half marathon
BOTTOM l: Moroccan pancakes for breakfast and R: Savoury meat briouats

Our journey then took us to the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage site which never fails to impress me: Romans in Morocco!  Dating back to the 3rd century BC, Volubilis was once a bustling Roman city and the administrative centre of the province of Mauretania Tingitana. Walking through the remnants of this once-thriving city, we marvelled at the intricately detailed mosaics and towering columns that have stood the test of time.

Nearby the hilltop town of Moulay Idriss was our base to climb up to enchanting Scorpion House (click on the name for a video of it). The he beautifully restored residence is the private home of Englishman Mike Richardson of Cafe Clock fame. It sits on the steep hillside over 5 levels, offering incredible views over  Moulay Idriss. The vibe is eclectic, the décor unique, and the food sensational. He only does lunches and he welcomed us with a wonderful array of delicious food which we ate sipping the ever-present mint tea on the terrace, overlooking stunning views of the landscape.

Most of our group at Volubilis

Our travels then took us to Fes, a city steeped in history and renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture and mind-boggling ancient medina. We stayed in an authentic ryad with a superb winelist, owned by a charming Frenchman who came from his home in Spain especially to host us.

Here, we explored the medina, another UNESCO World Heritage site and visited Al Karaouiyne University, which has existed for the past 1000 years. We also learned about the intricacies of mosaics made by hand and then fashioned into crockery, furniture and fountains and visited the legendary tannery (and yes several beautiful tagines and leather jackets were purchased). We also went shopping in the medina with the ryad’s head cook, sourced ingredients and were then treated to a cooking demonstration including a traditional bastilla and dinner.

TOP L: making fresh oarka pastry in the Fes medina and R: our group had a fascinating visit to a spice shop BOTTOM L: Painting crockery. when fired the colour changes and R: the tannery in Fes

Next, we headed to Marrakech, stopping en route for  lunch at a typical huge Moroccan grillades cafe with really good food coming from a range of large outlets including tagines, the grill, seafood, salads and more.

Marrakech is a city that never fails to dazzle with its vibrant energy and colourful souks. Guided through the labyrinthine alleys, we dodged the motorbikes to discover a treasure trove of spices, fresh produce, and handcrafted goods. The scent of cumin, coriander, and saffron filled the air, promising more culinary delights. We loved the olives and méchoui (spiced slow-roasted whole lamb) we sampled and were fascinated by a visit to the wood-fired oven which heats the water for the hammam or public baths. We learned that in Morocco, every neighbourhood has five things: a mosque, a school, a public bath, a fountain, and a communal oven. The oven cooks everything from bread in the morning when the heat is high, to tangia which people deliver in their own sealed pots for long slow-cooking. The man in charge treated us to a rendition of traditional music playing a sintir, also known as the guembri, gimbri, or hejhouj in Hausa language, a three stringed skin-covered bass plucked lute used by the Gnawa people. Approximately the size of a guitar, it has a body carved from a log and covered on the playing side with skin from the neck of a camel. Marrakech was also fantastic for all manner of shopping.

TOP: Tagines were only one thing on offer at our roadside Grillades cafe
BOTTOM: L: luggage transported from carpark to our ryad in Marrakech and R: lunch after our cooking class

We had a great day out of Marrakech, first visiting Chef Tarik’s organic farm on the outskirts for a fun hands-on cooking class. After a welcome mint tea and explanation from the chef, and a walk in the kitchen garden, we divided into teams and were guided through how to make Moroccan cooked salads, an authentic tagine and fluffly couscous. We ate what we cooked for lunch.

No trip to Morocco would be complete without a journey into the Sahara Desert. We travelled in four wheel drive vehicles to a an amazing retreat (complete with swimming pool) in the arid desert region Agafay, a 45 minutes outside Marrakech. Most of us rode camels over golden dunes, watched the sun set and relaxed for a magical night under the stars as we were serenaded.

L Playing sentir at communal oven and R donkey riding in the Atlas Mountains

Donkey and mule riding was also on the agenda so next day we drove to the Ourika Valley and a small town nestled in a stunning valley with fascinating birdlife and spectacular scenery. Here we met our guide, donkeys, mules and muleteers, to start the gentle climb up to a small Berber village. It was sad to see the damage from the earthquake last year but good to know we were assisting recovery by visiting and spreading the word.  We were treated to a lovely lunch in a traditional Berber house, surrounded by the glorious Atlas Mountains  We also passed a couple of salt pans which were interesting.

L: most of the group at Jardin Marjorelle and R: fish cleaning in Essaouria

Early morning found us at the spectacular Jardin Majorelle, with its abundance of giant bamboo, yucca, papyrus, palm, cypress and banana trees, philodendrons and bougainvilleas and amazing cacti with natural colours that contrast vividly with the bright blue façade of the villa, which was lovingly restored by the late Yves St Laurent and where he spent much of his leisure time. Next stop the YSL museum, next door, a stunning 4000m2 building hosting a permanent exhibition devoted to the work and heritage of the couturier.

Lunch and wine tasting at Domaine Val d’Argan, before a visit to an Argan oil cooperative that supports divorced and widowed women by giving them work; seeing the processing of the unique argan nut that grows locally and is used to produce argan oil for cooking and for cosmetics with a tasting and shopping. Our last stop was coastal Essaouira, a much easier place to navigate solo though again we had an excellent tour which not only included the history but visits to a shop full of wooden delights and a jeweller, acknowledged by the king, where we learned about silver jewellery, how to authenticate it and browse the wonderful shop.

And so our journey came to an end, with our group scattering, but firm friendships made and promise of a reunion and staying in touch. It’s always sad to say goodbye, but most especially to our incredible tour manager, Soufiane, who is such a wonderful advocate for his country. 

Only in Morocco! L: family transport – a bike for 4 and R: kebab flavoured crisps

Know Your Ingredient: Gochujang

Just one of the many brands of Gochujang

Once upon a time sriracha was the latest darling of spicy food lovers. Now it is in every supermarket. The latest to be making inroads into supermarkets and not just Asian food shops, is gochujang. This Korean staple is a spicy paste made from red chillies and fermented soybeans and can enliven many a soup, casserole, marinade or sauce. Just look at #gochujang on social media. It is spicy, salty, earthy and sweet with a umami quality and texture that is thick and sticky. The  exact level of heat can vary as can added sweetness. Best to buy a small tub and experiment to find one suited to your tastes.
If you want a substitute try combining miso paste and sriracha with a little pinch of sugar.
Here’s a collection of gochujang recipes.