In the winter time our meals often consist of a homemade soup or stew and while these are wonderful and delicious there are time I crave something just a little different. I love to cook and I especially love to come up with something new (or at least new to me), as a result I often consider recipes as a sort of guideline and rarely follow one exactly.
A couple years ago a friend of mine introduced me to Morrocan food and I was hooked. The flavors are so fantastic! So, I wondered... Could I come up with a stew that was morrocan flavored? Moroccan Tagines are really just a stew with different spices. All I could do was try it and see and since I had a lovely jar of preserved lemons just waiting for me to try, I figured why not?
First I wanted to get the spices mixed and ready. This isn't a necessity as there are a lot of recopies out there which don't do this but I love spice mixes. So, here we go!
I know, I know, I really need to organize my spice rack so they are neat little jars.
My Moroccan Spice Blend
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
That's it! Mix all together well and store in a nice little jar. I will say that was all the spices I had on hand and I would have loved to add a few more such as cardamom and some coriander but they don't seem to exist up here so I will keep looking.
Moroccan Flavored Stew
1.5 pounds meat (preferably lamb but you can use what you have on hand although the flavor will be slightly different) I chopped it up into nice bite sized pieces the same as I would for any other stew
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic or good substitute
2 teaspoons parsley
The flesh of two preserved lemons. Chop it up, discard the seeds and save the rind for later. This is where you might want to change it up a bit. If you really don't like much lemon only add one.
Place all items in a nice heavy pot and simmer on a very low heat for about two hours. Then add the rest of the ingredients.
1 1/2 cups beef broth. I would have preferred wine but it tasted great with just the broth
2 medium potatoes
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup olives
the rind of the lemons chopped up
2 teaspoons of the spice blend made earlier. I loved this blend but if your spices are much fresher you might want to start with 1 teaspoon and taste it after a bit before adding more.
Simmer on a low heat for another couple hours, until the vegetables are nicely cooked through and the flavors blended.
While this method worked great I might try adding it all to the pot at once next time and just leaving it throughout the day while I'm busy with other things. I think it might work great as a crockpot meal although you would have to adjust the amount of liquid to about 1 cup.
I really would have like to made some couscous to go with this meal but I didn't have any so the next best thing I could think of was a nice moroccan flat bread. I looked at recipe after recipe but couldn't find one that would work with the ingredients I had so I decided to make a simple bread made in Africa and India called Roti. Every family has a slightly different roti recipe but the basics are all the same. Here's my version.
This bread is really easy to make but it does take a while for the dough to rest so start it about an hour before the stew is done.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup milk
Mix the flour and salt together. Measure water and milk in to a small dish to mix together. You don't want the liquids hot just nicely warm. Add liquids to flour mixture to make a soft dough. Using your hands cover it with a light layer of olive oil and allow to rest covered in a warm place for about 1/2 and hour.
Now to roll out the dough. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Dip each piece in flour and roll out with a rolling pin to a nice slim 8 inch round. Flouring as necessary so it doesn't stick to the counter. Heat a nice heavy skillet to medium heat. Fry each piece for about 30 seconds on one side then flip over. Fry about another minute until the bottom in browning a bit then flip over again. Fry for about another minute. See the dough puffing up? Cool isn't it?
If your dough doesn't puff up keep trying but don't tell any of your friends, especially if they are from India! This bread needs to be kept warm and eaten right away as it will stiffen otherwise but you can brush it lightly with butter to keep it soft and if you need to store it you can soften it in the microwave with a sprinkle of water or a dampened towel.
I was so impressed with the way this turned out that it will be a favorite in our house from now on. Mountain Man especially loved the bread!