Sunday, February 05, 2006

Moroccan Cooking Classes at Dar Bneena

Today was the first Moroccan cooking class at Dar Bneena! Saadia, my host mother from the Oudaya casbah, taught it.

On the menu were couscous with chicken and vegetables, almond cookies with jam centers, and Moroccan mint tea.

Here are the how-tos (that are really only useful if you're in Morocco, I think, as a couple of things are pretty Morocco-specific, such as using a quantity of an ingredient according to how much it costs here in Morocco ... if there is someone out there who for some reason has stumbled across these recipes and wants to try them, send me an email and I will be glad to figure out the conversion from public-oven temperature, for example):

for the cookies
7 eggs
250 g flour
65 g sugar
170 g butter
1/2 envelope of vanilla sugar
1/2 envelope of baking powder (khamiira diyaal helwa)

half of a small container of berry jam
the juice of half a lemon
some water (about a third of a teacup)
a heaping tablespoon of sugar

125 g almonds (blanched, peeled, and chopped)

Into a mixing bowl/qasriyya (the tajine-like bottom for making dough), put the sugar, the vanilla sugar, and the butter. Cut the butter into pieces.

Separate the eggs; add the yolks to the bowl but retain the whites for glazing. Knead.

Add the baking powder and flour (the flour bit by bit). Knead. To evenly distribute the baking powder, what I would do is sift it into the flour first, but we didn't do that in the class and the result was delicious.

Make the dough into walnut-sized balls; dip them into the egg whites and roll them in the almonds (or coconut if you don't have almonds.) Spread them onto a greased cookie sheet.

Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make recesses in the cookies; fill them with the jam mixture (which is the jam, the juice of half a small lemon, the little bit of water, and the spoonful of sugar, simmered--heat the jam, juice, and water first then mix the sugar in)

Take to your friendly neighborhood baker, who will know how long to bake it.

for the couscous:
Saadia recommends the use of a funnel-shaped kaskaas that fits over the steam release hole of a pressure cooker because it takes much less time. If you use a many-holed couscousier, you need to use a flour-and-water-soaked cloth to seal the gap between the bottom and top portions, so that all of the steam is forced through the couscous.

The Chicken and Veggies
onion (I don't remember how many were used. One? Two?)
turnips (three kinds)
potatoes (sweet potatoes are traditionally used; we used plain old potatoes)
tomatoes (two. peeled, seeded, chopped)
squash (garaa hamraa)
one teacup oil

the spices:
ginger (more than you would think!)
qusbur (cilantro)--tie it in a knot or tie it together with a string to take it out when you are done cooking)

The chicken should be cut, rubbed with salt, skinned (depending on how much you want skin or not), washed with water and vinegar and subcutaneous fat removed, and tossed in the pressure cooker with the onions and the teacup of oil and cooked for a little bit.
Then the tomatoes, salt, and some turmeric are added and that gets cooked for a little bit, then more turmeric and a generous amount of ginger are added and that is cooked for a little bit. Water hasn't been added yet. Then the rest of the vegetables (except the squash, which cooks quickly and should be added near the end) are added, as are the spices (the saffron strands are first heated on the lid of the cooker for a while; I don't know why) and everything is cooked under pressure. Does anyone remember how much water is eventually added, and when?

The Couscous itself
The kaskaas is not placed over the pressure cooker until after the whistle/gauge on the cooker has started to spin.

couscous (medium size.) we used one kilo for six people and a large quantity of it was left over.
vegetable oil (we used sunflower)
smin (2 dirhams' worth)

First, pour a cup of water on the couscous and fluff the couscous so that it absorbs the water but does not get lumpy. It then gets cooked over the pressure cooker for what Saadia estimated to be about ten minutes, but was really more like twenty. Then it gets inverted into the qasriyya and salt and oil (does anyone remember how much?) are added, as are four teacups of water, and everything is fluffed until the water absorbs and there are no lumps. Put it back into the kaskaas and cook it for the same amount of time as before--that is, an estimated ten but an actual twentyish minutes.) Actually, was anyone timing any of the couscous-cooking bits? The third and final time that it is fluffed, about a measuring cup and a half of water are added; the couscous is then put back on the pressure coooker for about twenty minutes (in Saadia's estimation on this one.) It is during this round of pressure cooking that the squash should be added to the pressure cooker. When the couscous is removed for the last time, a little more than half of the two dirhams of smin is added, and the couscous is fluffed, and spread over the qasriyya out of which it is eaten.)

The vegetables and chicken are arranged such that the chicken is in the middle, under the artfully-distributed vegetables. couscous broth is poured over the dish; if there is enough, some can be put into bowls which individual eaters who are so inclined spoon over their own section of the dish.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Here, Fishy Fishy Fishy!

Kristen went to Marrakech and Essaouira for the weekend and came back gushing about the fish tajine that they had made in Marrakech. So today, a fish tajine was made:

It was tasty!
Here's what went into it:
mounds of fish
tomato paste, tomatoes
parsley and cilantro
(and I'm not sure what spices she used--I wasn't around for that part of the food prep; I was cutting some potatoes or somesuch when that happened.)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

We've been cooking up a storm!

We've also been taking photos of said food.
We've just been lazy about posting.

One day soon, though ...

(but not too soon.)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Chicken Soup for the Bruised (and swollen) Soul

So, yesterday, we'd had a few folks over for dinner. We ate pasta with tomato sauce.

Anyhoo, in the midst of the festivities, Kristen got dropped and fell on her face on the cold and hard tile floor. So today it hurts her to chew.

And so today we made chicken soup for dinner.
And I made some mahalabiyya for dessert.

(Photos to be posted tomorrow, when I'm less tired.)

Welcome to Dar Bneena

Dar Bneena means "Tasty House."

We live in the medina in Rabat. We like to cook. This is our house blog, where we will show you what we cooked today.