A serving of Moroccan mallow with preserved lemon

El bakkoula or khoubbiza: Vegetarian Moroccan mallow salad with options

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In Morocco, steamed and sautéed mallows with chermoula is seasonal cooked salad or starter which you might get served every single day during the raining season.

Mallow salad
Many people confuse mallow leaves with spinach leaves. While mallow has an interesting note of acidity, the spinach might have a bitter after-taste (ask those who don’t like it).
This salad is seriously healthy and very intestine-friendly especially if you are suffering for constipation because it’s all leaves and fibres. Tried and tested!
Mallow salad will still be called as such even if it has spinach, purslane or chard in it. We actually prefer a salad with mixed leaves rather than have one variety. Whichever mix you go for, the olive oil and chermoula will give these leaves a rich flavour and a life.
Bunches of mallow in a market @ Fez
I have previously posted the standard mallow salad’s recipe in French. Today, I would like to repost it in English for a broader audience but also to talk about the other versions of this salad. But first, meet the other leaves.
Purslane: It’s one of those weeds that grow in gardens without being invited. If you are anywhere in the world where you can’t get hold of mallow leaves but can get purslane, just substitute. Just like mallows, everything in this plant is edible (stalks and leaves).
Purslane, choose the ones with large and abundant leaves 
Chard: all kind of leafy chard will work as a substitute.
Spinach: like I mentioned above, spinach does not make a 100% good substitute but you can mix it with chard or purslane to give it what’s missing. Everyone knows how spinach looks like (that’s to say that I don’t have a picture of spinach in my database).

Mix all these leaves if you can get hold of them or just use one of them is totally up to you. Here is a recipe where you can get started.

Ingredients
Serves 4 -6
Prep: 30 min / Cooking time: 20 + 15 min
  • 500g of leaves and stalks from mallow, purslane, chard, spinach (anything available)
  • 1 cup of coriander and parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tbsps paprika
  • Hot chilli powder to taste
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsps olive oil + 1tbsp of vegetable oil
Garnish
  • ½ preserved lemon, use the rind only
  • Green olives or/and purple olives
  • Flakes of dried chilli pepper
Preparation
Wash leaves and stalks thoroughly in cold water. You might need to repeat and change water a few times to get rid of dirt and soil. Drain.
Roughly chop the herbs. I like to keep the bottom part of the chopped stalks in one side and pile up the rest of the chopped herbs in another.
Transfer the chopped herbs into the top part of a steamer and fill the bottom to 1/3 or 1/2 its volume with boiling water. I like to place the chopped stalks first then top them with the chopped leaves.
The leaves will start withering as they lose their water. Steam for 10 minutes.
While this is happening, make a chermoula mix by crushing garlic, herbs and spices in a pestle and mortar (you can use a small food processor).
Heat half the oil in a frying pan,  fold in the chermoula and stir for a few seconds. Dump in the steamed herbs and stir to distribute the spices evenly.
Saute for a few minutes until all water has evaporated.
Set aside to cool for 10 minutes then addd the remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Stir
Serve cold or at room temperature, garnished with preserved lemons and red or green olive.
This Moroccan leafy salad will keep well in the cold for a few days.
Note: you could use this salad as a stuffing for a steamed chicken.
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Steamed Moroccan chicken, slightly roasted and served over a bed of diced and steamed potatoes and carrots

Moroccan steamed stuffed chicken 5 ways

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Have you ever steamed chicken? If not, you’re in for a wonderful discovery. In Morocco, we have a few ways to stuff it before steaming it.

I like steamed chicken, not only because it’s healthy to steam food but because the bird is incredibly moist. I can eat it hot or cold, so , so it’s quite convenient as well.

Steamed and semi-roasted chicken with vermicelli stuffing, served with
steamed vegetables with chermoula on the side.

Consider the recipe I’ll be posting today as a main idea you can work around. I’ll give you 3 options to stuff a chicken and marinate it the Moroccan way. But before you even get there, you want to clean it and brine it the Moroccan way first.

I tend to use baby chicken because we’re a small family here but back home the usual size is medium to large, which means that the bird takes more stuffing and more marinade.

Steamed and roasted chicken, stuffed with rice vermicelli and harissa
and served with the same combination

Even if you can’t fit all the stuffing in the chicken’s cavity, you can still steam it on the sides of the bird and serve it along with it.

Steamed and roasted chicken with herbs (see options below)

Before you marinate the chicken, you want to decide which colour you are going for. You could marinate the chicken with a red effect by adding more paprika to the chermoula or with a yellow effect by adding turmeric which also will call for ginger. Both are a matter of choice.

After the chicken is cooked through and steamed properly, or you could either semi-roast it or serve it as it is. We like to semi-roast it for a nice golden colour just before serving.
You could marinate the chicken 1 day ahead and even steam it 1 day ahead. It can be roasted the same day you will be serving it, which is quite convenient if you have a busy schedule, not to mention using leftovers for a quick meal when you don’t feel like cooking.


Ingredients

Serve 4
Prep: 20 min – Marination: 2 hrs- Cooking: 1h20 
  • 1 baby chicken (0.8 -1 kg),
  • 1 cup of chermoula (approx)
  • 1 cup of stuffing
  • 1/4 cup of green olives and pickles, finely chopped
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 1 potato, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut in length then in chunks
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil to roast the chicken
Chermoula
  • 2 cups of coriander, chopped
  • 1 cup of parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 -2 tbsp of paprika (add the second spoon for a “red” finishing)
  • 1 tsp of turmeric (only add it if you are after a yellow finishing)
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger (only add it if you are after a yellow finishing)
  • 1 tbsp of cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of cayenne or to taste
  • 1 tsp of sea salt or to taste
  • 2 tbsps of lemon juice
 
Vegetable stuffing
  • 1 cup of mixed vegetables: carrots, potatoes, turnip, peeled and diced small.
  • 1/2 cup of petit pois (optional)
  • 1/2 of ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
You could double the portion to serve around the chicken.
Rice vermicelli and chermoula stuffing 1
  • 1 cup of rice vermicelli, softened in hot water for 3 min. and kept “al dente” before draining. Cut the long vermicelli with scissors into 3 or 4.
  • 1/2 of the chermoula paste
  • 2 tbsps of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of harissa
  • 1/4 cup of green olives, chopped
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or butter
Rice vermicelli and harissa stuffing 2
  • 1 cup of rice vermicelli, softened in hot water for 3 min. and kept “al dente” before draining.
  • 2 tbsps of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of harissa
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil or butter
Rice stuffing
  • 1 cup of steamed or boiled rice in salted water and kept “al dente”
  • 1/2 of the chermoula paste
  • 1/2 cup of button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
Herbs stuffing
  • 2 cups of parsley
  • 1 cup of coriander
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 preserved lemon, chopped and seeds discarded
  • 1/2 cup of green olives, chopped
  • Salt, pepper and cumin to taste

Preparation

Prepare the bird

  • First of all, clean the chicken thoroughly and dip it in a brine for at least 3 hours (water, vinegar, salt and lemon).
  • Try to get rid of any fat between the skin and the meat (yep, those white spots, you will never find them in a chicken cooked Moroccan style). Be careful not to tear up the skin..
  • Wash the bird from the brine and pat-dry it, massage it with half of the chermoula paste mix mixed with 1 tablespoon of olive oil inside out and under the skin.

  • Leave to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Make the chermoula

  • For best results, use a pestle and mortar to make a smooth chermoula paste but a small food processor will do the job as well. Mix all the ingredients.

Vegetable stuffing

  • Steam the diced vegetables and the petit-pois over boiling water for 7 minutes. They should remain slightly firm from the inside. Mix with half of the chermoula.
  • Stuff the chicken’s cavity from the bottom then from the neck.

For all other stuffings

  • Mix all ingredients and stuff the chicken.

Steam the chicken

  • Place the chicken over the potato slices and carrots on the top side of the couscoussier or any steamer. Fill the bottom part of the double boiler to 1/3 with hot water and place over the top with the chicken. Cover and let steam for 50 min. You could fill in the side of the steamer with any leftover vermicelli or diced vegetables.
  • Once the chicken is tender and cooked through. Set aside until you are ready to serve.

Roasting and serving

 

  • Massage the chicken with olive oil and place it in a hot oven under the grill. Rotate every 10 minutes or until a side is looking golden to golden-brown.
  • Serve with steamed vegetables or pickles or just roasted potatoes.
  • You can serve it hot or cold depending on the season.
  • Use leftovers for sandwiches or salads.

 

Notes

  • While it’s not necessary to saw the skin, I find that this step keeps the chicken moist and the stuffing inside.
  • It’s always better not to fully stuff the cavity in order to leave some space for the steam to operate. I tend to only fill 3/4 of it at maximum.

 

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