Moroccan lamb shak with wheatberry kernels

Moroccan lamb shank with wheatberry kernels

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Slow-cooked lamb shanks with wheatberry is a dish cooked the same way as Moroccan trotters recipe. In fact, you could make it a vegan dish by omitting any form of rich meat and just use chickpeas instead.

There was a old lady I used to visit when I was still living in Morocco and she would serve the wheatberry on their own, accompanied with a classic Moroccan tomato and cucumber salad. 

Being from a modest background, she always apologised everytime she served it, but all what I had in mind was ” can I finish the plate without looking bad? is there enough for everyone?”. 

My old friend was twice my age actually, so I used to call her “khalti” or Auntie. She used to prepare her wheatberry at night and serve it the next day, very reminiscent of Dafina or Skhina, a Moroccan-Jewish dish for Shabbat.

 

Moroccan lamb shak with wheatberry kernels

Moroccan lamb shak with wheatberry kernels. Credit @Nada Kiffa

Khalti was again another person who can tell you stories about Muslim and Jewish Moroccans living side by side and growing together looking after each others’ kids and properties. 

The result of this symbiose was a transfer of recipes and habits which transcend generations up to now. 

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Moroccan lamb shank with wheatberry

Slow-cooked lamb shanks with wheatberry is a dish cooked the same way as Moroccan trotters recipe. In fact, you could make it a vegan dish by omitting any form of rich meat and just use chickpeas instead.

  • 150 g wheatberry kernels (washed and left to soak in cold water overnight)
  • 1 lamb shank
  • 1 onion (medium, finely chopped)
  • 1 tbps ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika (optional)
  • ½ tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt (to taste)
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic (3 crushed and 3 with skin on)
  1. Mix the spices and grated garlic with oil



  2. Mix the drained wheatberry kernels with 2/3 of the spice mix. Mix well so all kerners are coated. You will particularely need to do this if you cook them in a cheesecloth pouch (We usually do that).

  3. Prick the lamp shanks with the knife and thoroughly rub the meat.



  4. Use a heavy pot to cook on top of a stove/cooker, in a oven or over charcoal. Pressure cooker will do as you halve the time.



  5. Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the pot (it shouldn't stick whilst cooking), Add the lamp shank to one side and the wheatberry kernels in a pouch next to it.

  6. Depending on pots and methods of cooking, you may need less.

Slow-cooking in an earthenware pot

  1. Add enough water to reach no more than half of the lamb shank and seal the pot.



  2. Cook for 90-120 min on medium heat or for 2h30-3 hours in a 170 degrees oven. The time depends on the quality of the meat and its thickness.

  3. Remove whichever cooks first and make sure all liquid has evaporated before serving.

Cooking in a pressure cooker

  1. You will need less water to cook and may need to cook this dish under 1 hour depending on the type of pressure cooking and setting used.

Serving

  1. Serve warm

  • If you choose to prepare Moroccan wheatberry kernels on the vegan side, use presoaked chickpeas (not canned).
  • Depending on the origin and type of chickpeas, adjust the cooking time. 
  • When cooked without meat, this recipe can be served as a side dish.

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French Brussels sprouts en gratin- Gratin aux choux de Bruxelles et saucisses

[su_spacer]Brussels sprouts! I hear you! What an awful vegetable. You don’t like it, you don’t know what to do with it and with all the good will in the world and you trying to eat your green, you just can’t get it down your throat.

I have to sell this recipe to you because my Brussels sprouts en gratin goes down really well with grilled meat as a side dish. Besides, it’s my Dad’s recipe. That on its own brings so much to the plate.

You can double the quantity of brussels sprouts (I tend to go the opposite way)

Well I say it’s my Dads’ but he initially got it from the French magazine “Femme Actuelle” sometimes late 80’s early 90’s I reckon. He worked on a few substitutes on the meat addition.

This recipe dates a bit in our family..

So let’s get on with the recipe.

Ingredients

Serves 2-4 people
Prep: 10 min/ Cooking: 5 min (pan) and 30 min oven time

For the base
– 400- 500g of brussels sprouts (if fresh, parboil them for 3 min, if frozen, just use straight away)
– 200 g of sausages of your choice, You could use steak strips or 50 g of bacon (or a mix of all this)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1 cube of bouillon (or equivalent)
– 50 g of comte or gruyere cheese
– 1 tbsp of oil

For the Béchamel sauce (you could get away with half the quantity)
– 60 g (2 heaped tablespoons) of flour or cornstarch
– 60 g of butter
– 400 ml of milk, at room temperature
– 1 egg yolk (optional)
– 1 tsp of mustard (optional)
– Salt and pepper to taste
– A generous pinch of nutmeg

The glorious brussels sprouts gratin on an Iftar table

 

Preparation

Cook the brussels sprouts in a bouillon for 10 min max (water + the cube). Having parboiled them should remove some of that strong taste they usually have.
Drain and set aside.
Preheat the oven at 200 C.
Poach the sausage if you are going that path. Do not forget to prick them in the water. Set aside.
If using the steaks, cut into strips and sautee in butter or olive oil over high flame. Season to taste.
If using bacon, cut into strips and fry. Set aside. I use Turkey bacon when I have them around.

Prepare the Béchamel sauce

In a deep pan, melt the butter. Add the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir and let the flour “fry” for a couple of minutes.
Grad and manual whisk and gradually add milk as you whisk along. The trick is to reduce the heat to a bare minimum, add the milk by 1/4 cup (ish) and whisk to homogonize. Do that ask you go along and get to half the quantity of milk. Then you can pour the rest of it into the pan and bring to heat to medium.
Stir from the bottom of the pan to ensure no sticking is happening on your watch.
Cook for about 10 min then add the yolk and the mustard. It should have thickened by now and bubles would have surfaced.
Knock of the heat and set aside. Stir regularely the first 5 min otherwise you get an umpleasant crust.
Assemble the gratin

Fold all ingredients in the sauce and stir. Grate the cheese on top and place in the oven for 15-20 until dark specks of gratinated cheese appear.

Serve warm with a salad or a nice grilled piece of meat.

My Dad’s original recipe cutout 

 


Moroccan couscous with walnut and aubergines

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Moroccan Couscous with walnut and aubergines, couscous Jawzi – الكسكس الجوزي is an intriguingrecipe from Tujibi’s book which dates back from the 11th century.

Needless saying that I felt the urge to to bring it back onto the Moroccan table.

My additions

I added saffron threads to the sauce as it seemed right to do so. It came out perfect.

The recipe itself does not ask for many spices, barely pepper and ground coriander seeds for the sauce/marqa and cinnamon and gum mastic for the walnut paste.

I served this couscous jawzi warm for lunch and I kept some steamed couscous grains mixed with the fragrant paste for a light afternoon treat. As I sprinkled it with warm milk and topped it with some jewelled pomegranate seeds, it was a wonderful treat.

Aubergine and walnuts make a perfect marriage and we can see that in the Middle Eastern kitchen in the form of Makbous bidinjan (pickled stuffed mini aubergines with walnuts and chili).

A note about the couscous grain

Steaming couscous is the best method to handle these wonderful grains. I will never advocate for the 5 minutes re hydration method, even more when the couscous grain is fine.

I prefer to steam my couscous over the stew which will be accompanying it. This method allows you to have a well infused grain and it tastes much better. In this case, once the meat has cooked, we start the same process described below to cook the couscous.

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Couscous with walnut and aubergine – Couscous jawzi

Couscous with walnut, couscous Jawzi – الكسكس الجوزي is a centuries old recipe that we hardly hear of. It can be found in Tujibi's book of recipes dating back from the 12th century. Its unusual combination is worth discovering. It's so easy to prepare and I'm sure it will be a crowd-pleaser.

Couscous broth -marqa-

  • 500 gram onions (white or brown, finely chopped)
  • 300 gram meat (calf, beef or lamb meat with bones, ideally from legs or shoulder and cut into slices 2 cm thick)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds (ground)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (or white, ground)
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 pinch saffron threads

Cooking the aubergines

  • 2 aubergines (medium-size ((use a version with less seeds))
  • 1 tsp salt

Preparing the couscous

  • 150 gram couscous grains (fine or medium, I use the packed and pre-cooked Dari or Tria brand)
  • 200 ml cold water (to moisten the grains in stages)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp oil (vegetable or olive oil to rub the grains)
  • 100 gram walnut kernels
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (ground)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp gum mastic (or meska hourra)

Preparing the walnut paste

  1. They are first boiled and peeled then pounded with their flavourings. The peeling of walnuts helps improving its taste as the bitter element is removed, you will find some sweetness to it.

  2. Parboil the kernels of walnut. After the boiling point, leave them for 3 minutes then transfer to a strainer. It helps breaking them with your hands before peeling them. Pat dry once done.

  3. Reduce the gum mastic to powder by mixing it with sugar and grounding it with a pestle and mortar and squashing it with the back of a glass.

  4. Use a pestle and mortar or a food processor to mix the walnuts with the gum mastic mix and cinnamon. You should get a coarse paste.

Preparing the aubergines

  1. Peel the aubergines and trip their "hat". They should be kept in one piece.Place them in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Add the salt and parboil for 20 minutes to get rid of their bitterness. Make sure you flip them over during this process.

  2. Transfer to a strainer and set aside.

Make the meat stew- marqa

  1. In the bottom of a couscoussier, add about 1/4 cup of water, all the spices and salt, meat, chopped onions, oil. Stir and place it over medium heat. Turn the meat around a couple of times before the liquid nearly evaporates. This allows the meat to absorb spices, we call this step shahhar the meat.

  2. Add enough water to cover the cuts of meat and cover. Cook until the meat is nearly tender then add the aubergines to the sauce. Push them inside the sauce.

  3. Correct the seasoning and top up with water if needed and remember that you need some broth to moisten the couscous grains before serving it.

  4. You will need to keep about 500 ml of sauce in the end of the cooking process as we need it for the couscous and also to serve some on the side.Halfway of this cooking stage, start steaming the couscous.

Preparing the grains of couscous

  1. Mix water and salt and set aside.

  2. In a deep bowl or dish, drizzle the oil over couscous and rub the grains, ensure they are fully coated.

  3. Sprinkle (do not pour) half the quantity of water progressively and while delicately rubbing the grains. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes as the grains will soak the liquid and form lumps.

  4. Take handful after handful and rub your hands against each other in order to break the lumps. The couscous will fall through, scoop another handful and proceed to break more lumps. If you see smaller ones and delicately break them between your fingers. The grains should all be separated at the end of this process.

  5. Fold the couscous in its original bowl or a large dish. Break the couscous lumps with a couple of forks when it's still piping hot, just run them in opposite directions to split the lumps. The brave can still dig in with their hands and do it or use thick latex gloves for the job.Spread the couscous evenly in the top level of a couscoussier and place it over its bottom part, filled with to 1/4 or 1/3 with boiling water. Count 15 minutes (medium grains might take up to 25 min) after you see the steam escaping through the couscous.

  6. Sprinkle the remaining water and proceed as the first time (resting time, rubbing, etc). Spread the couscous again evenly on the top of the couscoussier and steam for the same amount of time.

  7. At the end of this process, the couscous grain should have become soft to the touch and tender to the bite.

  8. Transfer them to a large dish and mix them with the walnut paste, roll and break down the mix between the palms of your hands until you scatter all the paste in the couscous and it looks fairly blended in. Again, avoid lumps.

Serving Couscous Al Jawzi

  1. Spread the couscous in a serving dish. We like to form a sort of well in the middle.

  2. With a laddle full of sauce/broth/marka, go around and try to poor it all around so most of the couscous grains absorb some of it.

  3. Place the meat in the center of the well and lay half of the aubergines (cut in length) all around. 

  4. Use a frying spatula to fish the bit of onions and scatter them on top. Add more broth all around without over-soaking the couscous. We tend to serve extra bowls of broth next to the main dish so people help themselves. 

  5. Serve hot or warm.


Moroccan slow-cooked meat with cumin, over a bed of rice.

Moroccan slow-cooked meat with cumin -L’ham mkoumen

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L’ham mkoumen is one of the simplest and tastiest recipes I’ve recently discovered and it comes straight from the Marrakech culinary repertoire.

What’s in the name?

Mkoumen means “with cumin” and l’ham refers to meat which as to be falling off the bone with hardly any sauce. It’s so simple but it surely is incredibly addictive. My family loved it.

Moroccan slow-cooked meat with cumin, over a bed of rice.

Moroccan slow-cooked meat. Credit @Nada Kiffa

It’s somewhere between Tangia (iconic bachlor’s dish from Taroundant, Marrakech but also other cities) and M’quila (a fast option to replace khlii). Add a whole preserved lemon in wedges and you have a version of tangia.

I cooked my L’ham mkoumen in a dutch oven. I started it over a cooker for 15 min and placed it for 2 hours in the oven. It was so delicious!

Because the dish is all about meat, it’s a standard in Morocco to serve such things with salads on the side to make up for a complete meal.

No sauce please

Lham mkoumen is served almost as a confit of meat, dry with hardly any sauce, hence the little amount of water added to it. It should be slow-cooked in a closed tagine or in a heavy pot that can go to the oven.

In the pictures below, you will see some preserved lemon on top of the meat. That’s because I couldn’t resist adding half preserved lemon with the pulp, it really tasted like tangia! Succulent!

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Ingredients
Serves 4 
Prep: 10 min – cooking: 2 hours

  • 1 Kg of meat on the bone (osso bucco cuts will be perfect or leg of lamb in chuncks)
  • 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • A good pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp of salt (smen being already salted)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground coriander seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp of smen (Moroccan clarified and preserved butter)
  • 2 tbsps of olive oil
  • 200 ml of water
A bit of meat, a bit of garlic, a bit of rice with that tiny bit of thick
reduced sauce. Heaven!

 

Preparation
 
Rub the meat with ground cumin, ground coriander and smen. Leave for an 1 hour and preferably overnight.
In a dutch oven or a heavy clay pot, add the other ingredients. Start the cooking on medium heat  over a cooker for 10 minutes. Transfer to the oven for about 2 hours at 200 degrees C for 10 min then bring it down to 170 degrees C for the rest of the cooking. At 90 min, check the tenderness of the meat and the amount of liquid left in the pot.
Serve with steamed rice or hot bread and a salad on the side.
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