I have not had time or space to write a news letter since March and now I have too much news so I hope you don’t find this over-kill.
In April I had a few decadent days in London, catching up with friends and family. For my first dinner Lawrence had challenged a local bakery to cook bruschetta for a visiting Roman. It was a triumph, and this was followed by my favourite things which can’t be found easily in Rome. We feasted on scallops and smoked haddock while Michael kept us all very happy with chilled, crisp Sauvignon. The next day we went to a Hockney exhibition in the morning and the cinema in the later afternoon. We saw Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. I love Ralph Fiennes and I loved this film. I am already looking forward to seeing it again. Please don’t miss it. The day finished with a delicious Indian dinner at Babur’s which I can’t wait to repeat – a very unusual, authentic menu.
Later in the week Max and I had a good meal at Konaki’s, a Greek restaurant in Coptic Street, very convenient for the British Museum, followed by an amusing evening watching Trevor Nunn’s production of Noel Coward’s ‘Relative Values’. The critics gave this production very mixed reviews and many seemed troubled by the blatant snobbery. However I saw it as a polished, well-acted period piece and I adore Noel Coward‘s wit.
Life in London was not all self-indulgent meals and entertainment. I visited Manchester to do a two days consultancy on Italian food, and took care of some medical examinations I needed to do. On my flight home from the very convenient London City airport I began to feel shivery and within 24 hours I succumbed to the worst ‘flu I have had for many years. I was in bed for over a week and I was getting desperate because I was leaving for Marrakech the following week. In the end I began to feel normal two days before my flight and I was somewhat consoled by the amount of weight I had lost !
Of course In Morocco I cooked and ate fabulous meals so it soon all came back.
Marrakech was, as always, enchanting – a feast for all the senses. The Riad Orangeraie, in the Medina was our group’s home for the week. We started the day on the roof terrace with fruit, home-made yoghurt and a different type of freshly-cooked pancake every day. My favourite is the light, dimpled beghrir (recipe below) which are delicious with honey. We had to work hard to outwit the bees who arrived almost before we had finished asking for honey! We also had our welcome dinner feast in the riad and fell in love with the outstanding lamb tangia. This dish needs long slow cooking and traditionally it is prepared by men and taken to cook in the cinders of the haman fires. Click on the link to get a good recipe.
We cooked in La Maison Arabe’s new cooking school which is incredible, with individual hobs, sinks and trash bins at every single work station, and at the elegant Riad Moceau, with Chef Rachida Sahnoune. We had two memorable meals at Al Fassia, probably the best restaurant in Marrakech. It is family-owned and Myra Chab, one of the family, employs all female staff. We enjoyed a pause from Moroccan food in the Italian restaurant at the fabulous Mamounia hotel. The chefs and menus are supplied by the legendary Don Alfonso restaurant from Italy. Another meal at the Café de la Poste carried us back to French colonial days and by the end of the week we were ready to return to Moroccan food, when we drove to the coast to cook and eat seafood in Essaouira. Of course everyone had time between meals to explore Marrakech, and the daily call to prayer became very soothing as the days passed. We felt very safe as we strolled through the labyrinth paths in the medina, and the merchants have learned they sell more if they don’t pester. By the time we all left for our flights home we had personally put on weight, despite all the walking and stairs, and we needed to buy an extra piece of luggage.
I spent a few days in Seville on the way home but I will save that for my next newsletter when I talk about our Sicily trip. After that I will be leaving a quieter life and I will get back to my domestic news.
These pancakes are only cooked on one side so do not cook on too high a heat. The top should be full of bubbles.
125 g flour
150 g fine semolina
2 t baking powder
½ t sugar
1 t salt
½ active dry yeast
250 ml warm water
Put the water, yeast and sugar in your blender and let stand for at least 5 minutes.
Add milk, egg baking powder and salt and blend until smooth.
Cover and leave to stand for about half an hour.
Wipe the bottom of a small, non.stick pan with a kitchen towel and a few drops of olive oil. Blend the mixture for a few seconds then add a small quantity of batter to make a thin pancake. Cook the first pancake in a cold pan. After a few minutes remove and put on a cloth. Do not stack until they have cooled or they will stick together. Blend the mixture every so often to keep it fluffy. When all the pancakes have cooled they can be stacked.
In Morocco they are served with some honey stirred into melted butter and a few drops of orange flower water can be added.