In the Maghreb region which includes Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, the cultural diversity has contributed to the regions varied spices and herbs influences that include African heat, French flair and of course the Mediterranean fresh produce.
If one dish could be named as the national dish of the region it would be couscous, now enjoyed worldwide! At the Spice House we love this delicious and healthy staple, not just as a side dish or cold in a salad but as part of a hearty and comforting main dish. Couscous will absorb a range of flavours from all the spices, herbs, meat, and vegetables you add to it, to make a complete meal. In Libya, couscous is served using a popular spice blend called Hararat, also used in soups, stews and sauces. It is a flavourful aromatic blend of cinnamon (widely used in the Maghreb region) coriander, cumin, red chilies, and allspice. At the Spice House we enjoy our couscous with this spicy tomato sauce recipe.
Spicy Tomato Sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot chilli powder
- 2 tablespoons Hararat spice blend
- 1/2 cup tomato puree
- 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 cups veggie stock
Add the chilli powder, Hararat, tomatoes, tomato puree, stock, salt, and brown sugar. Bringing the mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes
Another popular flavourful addition to North African cuisine is preserved lemons. The lemon brightens up many dishes, tagines, soups, stews, and sauces adding a complex sweet and savoury citrus flavour. We are blessed with an abundance of lemons growing all around us in Cyprus, so why not try making your own Moroccan style Cyprus preserved lemons. This is how we do it at the Spice House, easy and delicious, try adding a spoonful to your lentil soup or Daal.
Moroccan Style ‘Cyprus’ Preserved Lemons
- 10 large fresh Lemons (thin skinned is better and use more if needed)
- 1 tablespoon of pickling spices (we use a mix of fennel seed, coriander seed, pink pepper corns and we add 2 bay leaves)
- Salt, salt and more salt – use ‘sea salt’ and not table salt
- Whisk the spices into the sea salt.
- Wash and dry the lemons. Cut an X into the lemons: starting from one end, slice lengthwise downward almost to the base, turn the lemon 90 degrees and repeat, keeping the quarters together. Push the seasoned salt into the lemon.
- Pack the lemons as tightly as possible into a clean, airtight jar. The less space there is between the lemons the better. Make sure to cover the lemons completely with salt and let the spices settle.
- Store in a cool, dark place. The lemons will soften slightly, and juice will be released. After 5 days add as many more salted lemons as will fit into the jar. Pack the lemons so tight that they won’t dislodge as they soften and preserve. Be sure to cover with salt. They would be ready after one month of preserving but we often leave ours for 2 months.
- Rinse the brine off of the lemons thoroughly prior to use.
- We then blend and pack in small jars. They will keep a really long time in the fridge.
What better way to finish a delicious North African dish, well any meal for that matter, than with a glass of Moroccan / Maghrebi mint tea – well ok a ‘Cyprus’ mint tea!
Simply make a pot of green tea, loose leaf tea is best, then crush a small handful of fresh Cyprus mint and add to pot allowing it to steep for the flavours to infuse! Aids digestion and in the hot Cyprus summer, iced mint tea is also refreshing!
Don’t miss next month’s magazine as we continue our culinary journey along the Mediterranean coastline from Egypt to Lebanon.
Visit us at The Spice House for your spices, herbs and blends or check our web site:
www.spiceandeasycyprus.com for more recipes and info
or Find Us on Facebook (Spice and Easy Cyprus) or Telephone: 99104622