Kadra of wild artichokes and green peas

Wild artichokes are usually available in the beginning of spring or late April. They’re the hardest thing to peel and clean but rather quick to cook. I have the feeling that they’re also disappearing from our Moroccan tables.

Fez is known to keep traditions alive and this is where I see families still cooking the traditional dish using wild artichokes. However, people tend to buy them already peeled (same day) by vegetable sellers in the market. So they became a sort of delicacy.

Today’s dish is meant to be cooked using only wild artichokes as a main vegetable but in order to feed a large family, my mother coupled it with green peas, which is a very common combination in Moroccan cooking.

The particularity of this dish of wild artichokes is that you can serve it with rice which cooks in a particular way. You may do without but I think you have to try this version.

Wild artichokes can be cooked in  a tagine Mqalli style using garlic, coriander and parsley, turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper and finish off with a drizzle of lemon juice, preserved lemons and purple olives.

Today I’m posting the wild artichoke stew but Kadra style, omitting the garlic and olives and adding a hint of smen in the beginning of the cooking process.

Adding smen in the very beginning of cooking prevents it from hitting you in the face with its rather strong flavour which is not to everyone’s liking (a bit like blue cheese). It becomes a pleasant addition.

Kadra is generous in sauce or marka which is quite needed here to cook the rice. It is then reduced and served. What is needed in this case is a pressure cooker or a deep cooking pot.

Meat and vegetable quantities here are as an indication. You could add more or less.

If you don’t have fresh artichokes, there is no point using tinned ones but you could use frozen packs. Just bare in mind some of them have been treated with citric acid instead of lemons and that tends to ruin the artichoke’s taste. Pick a trusted brand. You could use frozen green peas or petits pois.

Ingredients
Serves 6 to 8 persons
Prep: 10 min- Cooking: 90 min

  • 1 kg of meat with bones cut into big pieces, shoulder or leg
  • 2 -3 kgs of wild artichokes (replace with globe artichokes)
  • 1 -2 kgs of green peas, peeled and washed, optional
  • 1/2 kg of small heads of onions (pick large spring onions and use the head or replace with shallots)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of black and white pepper
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • Salt to taste.
  • 1 tbsp of smen
  • 3 tbsps of vegetable oil
  • 250 g of long rice, washed and drained.
  • About 3 litres of water
  • 3 tbsps of parsley, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsps of lemon juice

 

The wild artichokes can be replaced with globe artichokes. Preserved lemons can also be added

Preparation

Peel and clean the artichokes and only keep the hearts (and peeled stalks in case of globe artichokes).

Cut the meat into pieces and place in a deep cooking pot. Add oil, smen, chopped onion. Add about a cup or mug of water and stir. Cover and place on medium heat. Give it about 10 minutes until the meats infuses with spices and cover all these ingredients with more water. Close the pot and cook until the meat is just about tender and cooked through. Stir occasionally by adding water if necessary especially if you are not using a pressure cooker (which might require less water and less time).

Passed 1 hour of cooking, add the whole shallots.

Once the meat has cooked, remove and keep it covered in a different pot. If you see you have less than 1 1/2 litre of sauce add a bit more water. Deep narrow pots are quite useful in this case.

Place the rice in a cheesecloth and seal it making sure nothing will escape. Make sure to loosen it a bit as rice will triple in size.

Add the chopped parsley, peas and the purse of rice into the sauce (frozen peas need less time to cook). Cover and carry on with cooking for about 15 min.

When the peas are almost cooked, add the artichoke hearts (they take 10-15 minutes to cook through).

When all the vegetables are cooked, remove the rice and place the meat back in the sauce and heat it a bit. Reduce the sauce over medium-high heat leaving the pot uncovered. Add the lemon juice to the sauce just after you knock off the heat.

Open the purse of rice and aerate it with a fork. Set aside.

In a serving dish, place the meat first and cover it with peas and onions. Finish off with the artichokes. Rice is usually served on the side and guests spoon as much as they want.

Note: This method of cooking rice in a sort of purse is widely used for some types of kadra in Fez. So basically you can serve a kadra of chickpeas with a side dish of rice in the stew itself. The same goes for a kadra with courgette and thyme.

 


Moroccan Almond and chickpeas Kadra : Kadra Touimiya (Twin)

I have introduced Kadra (or kedra) in the previous post. Today’s post is about one of the most commonly cooked dish in Fez: Kadra touimiya.

Many stories explain the origin of the dish but the one that makes more sense is the reference to “twin” in Touimiya where almonds and chickpeas are the twins in the story.

In addition to the recipe in the previous version of Kadra, this one uses blanched almonds which should cook to tenderness along with the broth (never toasted or fried). Ideally, you should get almonds that really taste almond and not the plain ones usually shipped from California.

 

Some types of almonds used in Morocco. Beldi is perfect for this dish.

The same rules apply to this kadra: NO (never) garlic, always smen. Ok to use ginger, Ok to use vegetable oil. NO olive oil.

The younger the chickpeas and almonds are the better.

 

Ingredients
Serves 8 -10 
Prep: 10 min – Cooking: 70 min by pressure cooker- 2h  for regular pot

  • 2 chickens of 1.5 kg each or 3 baby chickens (see tutorial here on how to prepare chicken for Moroccan cooking)
  • 1 kg of white/yellow onions, finely sliced or chopped
  • 200 – 250g of chickpeas, pre-soaked overnight and peeled
  • 300 g of blanched almonds (parboil almonds and peel them)
  • 2 tbps of vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger (not in a Traditional Fassi version)
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of finely ground white/black pepper (mix)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 6 cm tall
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp of smen (or 3 tbps of butter, but it’s less interesting)
  • A handful of chopped parsley

Option: to make Another version of Kadra called Kadra Touimiya, omit potatoes and replace chickpeas with whole blanched almonds.

 

Preparation

Cut each baby chicken into 4 pieces or 6 pieces if you are using bigger chicken.

 

In a deep pot, add a few tablespoons of water, the equivalent of a couple of chopped or sliced onions. the chicken pieces, the spices, the peeled chickpeas and almonds. Let simmer for 10 min and add vegetable oil. Cover with water and cover the pot with a lid. Cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked. Add water should you see that it’s needed.

Cooking Kadra after I fished out the chicken. 

Once the chicken is tender, fish it out, cover it with clean film or in another pot with a lid. Add the rest of the onions and carry on cooking them until they’re all withered, mostly melted and the chickpeas are definitely cooked through. Make sure this is happening on medium heat. Add water if needed.

Add potatoes and half of parsley. Cook until potatoes are cooked through.

Before serving, return the chicken to the broth, correct the seasoning and add the rest of the chopped parsley and smen (or butter). Give it a few minutes to heat up over medium heat.

Serve hot with a good Moroccan bread, Turkish pide or a baguette.

 

Notes:

1- This dish is not to the type of food served in Restaurants, it’s a family dish which is part of the culinary repertoire of a few Moroccan cities and Fez/Meknes especially.

2- The same dish can be made omitting chickpeas but a purse of rice (washed and drained) is cooked along with the sauce just 30 mins before serving. The rice is then aerated with a fork and served on the side. See this kadra for inspiration.

 


The world of Moroccan Kadras : Kadra with chickpeas and potatoes

If you have any link with Fez and have been brought up eating Fassi food, you might have gone to a saturation point with Kadra type of cooking.

Kadra (Kdra) is a sort of broth-y stew which is cooked in a deep pot and never in a tagine. It has very defined range of spices in it and it must have smen (Moroccan cured and preserved butter) and butter. Kadra’s broth is usually lighter than a Mqalli’s marqa (sauce).

Kadra is also pronounced “Guedra” in some areas, which refers to a sort of deep pot it’s cooked in.

The cheap version of kadra is made using chickpeas and chicken and the posher version uses pigeons and blanched almonds (see next post) which should cook to tenderness along with the broth (never toasted or fried).

Kadra varies from a soup to a dish with less broth. For today, I’ll be sharing one of the versions from the second category.

When we serve a big family with children, we tend to add potatoes which are always everyone’s favourite and do very well with the rest of the ingredients.

To my fellow Fassi people, I know you think that adding ginger to Kadra is a sacrilege but give it a go and see how you were missing on a wonderful dimension of this very old dish. More people in my family are adopting it.

A family presentation of Kadra with chickpeas and potatoes. Note the generous amount
of the clear broth calling for a good Moroccan bread

You could substitute the chicken with pigeons (more traditional) or rabbit.

Ingredients
Serves 8 -10 
Prep: 10 min – Cooking: 70 min by pressure cooker- 2h  for regular pot

  • 2 chickens of 1.5 kg each or 3 baby chickens (see tutorial here on how to prepare chicken for Moroccan cooking)
  • 1 kg of white/yellow onions, finely sliced or chopped
  • 200 – 250g of chickpeas, pre-soaked overnight and peeled
  • 750 to 900 g of potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes or wedges
  • 1 tbsp of turmeric
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger (not in a Traditional Fassi version)
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of finely ground white/black pepper (mix)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 6 cm tall
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp of smen (or 3 tbps of butter, but it’s less interesting)
  • 2 tbsps of vegetable oil
  • A handful of chopped parsley

Option: to make Another version of Kadra called Kadra Touimiya, omit potatoes and replace chickpeas with whole blanched almonds.

Kadra’s broth has to be “clean” and yellow. It mainly relies on saffron, turmeric and aged butter

Preparation

Cut each baby chicken into 4 pieces or 6 pieces if you are using bigger chicken.

In a deep pot, add a few tablespoons of water, the equivalent of a couple of chopped or sliced onions., oil, the chicken pieces, the spices, the peeled chickpeas. Cover with water and cover the pot with a lid. Cook over medium heat. Add water should you see that it’s needed.

A version of Kadra with almonds (Kadra Touimiya), cooking in the pot

Once the chicken is tender, fish it out, cover it with clean film or in another pot with a lid. Add the rest of the onions and carry on cooking them until they’re all withered, mostly melted and the chickpeas are definitely cooked through. Make sure this is happening on medium heat. Add water if needed.

Add potatoes and half of parsley. Cook until potatoes are cooked through.

Before serving, return the chicken to the broth, correct the seasoning and add the rest of the chopped parsley and smen (or butter). Give it a few minutes to heat up over medium heat.

Serve hot with a good Moroccan bread, Turkish pide or a baguette.

Note: This dish is not to the type of food served in Restaurants, it’s a family dish which is part of the culinary repertoire of a few Moroccan cities only (Fez, Meknes, Taza, Rabat, Marrakesh) with a few variations in spices.


Moroccan quince tagine with semi-caramelized onions

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Today’s recipe uses a wonderful seasonal fruit : quince . It’s a seasonal fruit which usually ends in a tagine or a stew when it’s not preserved. Moroccan quince is particularly fruity and intense in flavour.

 

A simple quince tagine with a lightly caramelized onion topping

 

Quince or Sfarjal has been used for centuries in the Arab cooking and weirdly enough, the dish I’m proposing today has roots in old Royal Baghdadi kitchens when Baghdad was the platform for knowledge (10th century). However, Moroccans (and Algerians to an extend) have tweaked it and kept it dearly while the rest of the Arab kitchens have dropped it.
Moroccan quince stew topped with onion jam
It’s been historically proven that the Arabs led the way in medical researches and studies back in the medieval times. Food was very much related to the person’s health and the first cooking books seemed to have come from the Arab world. Some of the recipes were rather prescriptions.
Some dishes were called by the main fruit or vegetable used in them: Tuffahiya for a dish using tuffah (apples), liftiya for a dish using lift (turnip) and Safarjaliyya for a dish using Safarjal (quince)
The Islamic world has influenced the Mongols as well (Ref: Daily life in the Mongol Empire). Safarjaliyya seems to have landed in their manuals and it looks so close to the recipe we are using nowadays.
A furry quince in a Moroccan market
According to Ibn Razin Al Tujibi – Kitab Al Tabikh -13th century-, Dishes with apples and quince were highly recommended for “strengthening” the stomach.
 

 

A nice wedge of quince in a Moroccan quince tagine

 

Back to the 21st century and our Moroccan quince tagine which comes under 3 main variations:
  • Quince cooked in their stew and topped with stewed or boiled okra. You may omit the okra.
  • Quince cooked in their stew then semi-caramelized in a different pan and then served on top of the stew,
  • Quince cooked in their stew, semi-caramelized in a different pan and then topped with semi-confit onions or a Moroccan onion jam.
Moroccan okra is small. Here, it’s parboiled and ready to be frozen
The last version happens to be my favourite since the sweetness of the jam balances the tartness of the quince.
If you get hold of quince while they’re in season, make sure you keep some for the rest of the year by parboiling quince which you would have cut into 8 wedges and then freezing them. Add them to the stew without thawing.
Moroccan quince stew or tagine is done in the manner of M’qalli and exactly following the same recipe for pears tagine, only quinces take longer to cook through.
You can replace chicken with lamb or beef meat.
Ingredients
Serves 2 to 4 persons
Prep: 15 min – Cooking : 90 min
The M’qalli/stew
  • 1 chicken or 600g of nice cuts of lamb or beef (shoulder, shanks)
  • 1 ½ medium-size yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of ginger powder
  • 1 tsp of turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp of white pepper powder (you may use black pepper)
  • A tiny bouquet of coriander/parsley (optional)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of smen (aged and cured butter, optional)
  • 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

The onion jam/semi-confit

  • 4 medium-size yellow onions, finely sliced
  • Broth from the m’qalli
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar or honey
  • 1 tbps of olive oil
The quince
  • 1 kg of medium-size quinces (about 3), fresh or frozen
  •  40g of butter
  • 40 g of caster sugar or/and honey
  • 1 cup  to 2 cups of the m’qalli
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon powder

To serve

  • Almonds, fried and crushed roughly or roasted sesame seeds
This quince stew is topped with a good onion jam as you can see by the colour

Preparation

The meat stew

Marinate the chicken/meat with most of the spices except saffron and 1/2 of the ground ginger. Massage with olive oil or smen. Keep in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.

Place the cooking pot or tagine over medium heat. Add a bit of water at the bottom, place the meat (ideally not overlapping), the chopped onions, the bouquet of coriander (optional). Season with saffron, ginger and and salt.

If you are dealing with a chicken, you may cut it into 4. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the oil and top with water (a tagine does not need as much water as a pot where you have to cover at least 3/4 of the bird or double for a red meat). Cover and carry on cooking until the bird is cooked through.

While usually we try to reduce the sauce or marka at the same time when the meat has cooked, make sure you leave the broth for later.
Fish out the meat and set aside. Cover with foil or something so the meat does not dry out.  Keep about 1 cup of the liquid on the side as well. Make sure you sift it. Discard the bouquet of herbs ( I never do that but some do).

The onion jam / semi-confit of onions

  • On a low-medium heat, add the finely sliced onions into the pot or tagine and cover. Let them simmer for 20 minutes until they’re transparent and absolutely tender.
  • Add the sugar or honey at this stage, maybe 2 tbsp of olive oil as well. Keep stirring until you get a sort of thick paste which also looks caramelized.  It might take about 30 min.
The colour of the semi-confit of onion depends on 1/ the type of onion used, 2/
the amount of sugar or honey added, 3/the time allocated to caramelization

 

The quince quarters (or wedges)

  • Wash and rub the quince to remove any fur (some varieties have a furry skin).
  • Cut the quince into 4 quarters or 8 wedges, discard the pits and place them in a big bowl of water with juice of 1 lemon. You may need to make a cross on the outer skin so it does not burst during cooking.
  • You can cook the quince two ways:
1/- Sift about 1/2 of the broth where the meat has cooked and cook the quince in it to tenderness. Add water to cover the quince.
On a medium heat, melt butter with sugar, sauté the quince wedges or quarters in it. Sprinkle some cinnamon and flip from all sides from a few minutes. The quinces are good when you see the edges slightly discoloured and looking just about caramelized. The liquid would have literally evaporated by now. DO NOT BURN OR OVER-CARAMELIZE THE FRUIT as it should remain tender but firm enough not to break.
2/ Directly cook the quince quarters or wedges in the stew. Once cooked through, scoop them out. Follow the same directions as in method (1).

Serving

  • Heat the stew. Serve the meat first, then the onion sauce on the top and all around. Place the quince and top with semi-caramelized onions and then finish off with toasted sesame seeds or with crushed blanched and fried almonds.
  • Serve warm.

Note: no quince? use cooking apples.

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