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Posts Tagged ‘Moro’

I’m still buzzing from last night’s Mi Casa dinner. I was very excited to be heading there for the second event after the roaring success of the first, though I have to admit to feeling slightly nervous that it wasn’t going to live up to the experience we’d had on the first occasion. I needn’t have been.

I’m in awe of Kristjan, Alexis and the team behind Mi Casa. The dedication, hard work and passion they put into running the restaurant for the evening is incredible and they make it look so easy and effortless. A completely calm exterior may have been hiding a lot but it led to everyone feeling at ease, welcomed, and ultimately what I’m sure they wanted to achieve, at home.

Last night’s food followed a Moorish theme – Spanish with a North African twist – not dissimilar to one of my favourite London restaurants, Moro. It was exquisite. I’m going to simply let the photos do the talking.   

   

                         

                             

Is it out of the realm of possibility that pop up restaurants could be awarded Michelin stars? In what could be the new ‘pop up restaurant’ category, if they haven’t been met already, Mi Casa is definitely not far off meeting the five criteria considered in awarding stars: quality of ingredients, skill in preparing them and combining flavours, level of creativity, consistency of culinary standards and value for money.

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The Moro Cookbook is the first of three cookery books by the chef-owners of the well-known and award-winning Moro restaurant in London, Samantha and Samuel Clark. 

The book focuses on the husband and wife team’s passion for Spanish, North African and Eastern Mediterranean food. Simple dishes with robust flavours and a Spanish influence are combined with those which are more exotic, fragrant, delicately spiced and Arabic in nature.

The combination of Spanish and North African cuisine is not a surprising one given Spain’s history. The invasion of Spain by the Moors influenced much of the Iberian Peninsula – the religion, architecture and undoubtedly the food. 

That the recipes extend from such a wide-reaching geography makes for an exciting collection to match many a mood, budget and appetite; classic tapas and mezze dishes, hearty, peasant-style meals, rich meat and offal platters, delicate fish suppers and indulgent puddings. 

Of course, there are recipes for favourites such as tortilla, chorizo al jerez (chorizo with sherry), baba ghanoush, tabbouleh and pollo al ajillo (chicken cooked with bay, garlic and white wine) but there are also some more surprising and interesting recipes like quail baked in flatbread with pistachio sauce, cod baked with tahini or bitter chocolate, coffee and cardamom truffle cake. 

Some of the ingredients are mystifying and, for anyone outside of London, could be difficult to source. The lack of photographs amongst the recipes and almost 70’s look to those which are there mean that it’s quite difficult to imagine how some of the more unusual or unfamiliar dishes should look. Don’t be put off, once past these first hurdles, the recipes are quite simple to follow and the food, for want of a better word, delicious.  

There’s a theme to many of the recipes; stages of long, slow cooking which are well worth pursuing as the result is an intensely flavoured and satisfying meal, even from the simplest of ingredients. The patatas a lo pobre (poor man’s potatoes) is just one such example, sweet, soft and extremely tasty and yet made from just a few ingredients – onions, garlic, bay, green pepper, potatoes, olive oil and seasoning. 

One of the more surprising dishes is the sopa de setas (mushroom and almond soup with fino sherry). What started out as, albeit tasty, mushroom flavoured water was brought alive and thickened by the addition of crushed almonds. 

The Moro Cookbook helps us reach a true understanding of Moorish food, an often over-looked and under-appreciated cuisine.

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Working my way through the Moro Cookbook I came across a recipe for pollo al ajillo, a favourite from my six month stay in Northern Spain, a now scary number of years ago when I was at University. It’s such a simple and amazingly tasty dish – I don’t understand why I haven’t been cooking it regularly ever since I first tasted it. I’m going to rectify that by adding it to our list of trusty quick weeknight suppers. Note to self: check if either of us has a meeting the next day before freely adding to the pan the bulb (not clove!) or two of garlic the recipe calls for!

Pollo al ajillo is a classic Spanish way of cooking chicken pieces. It uses very few ingredients – chicken, garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, white wine, water, salt and pepper. The trick is to emulsify the chicken juices, wine, water and olive oil to create a silky sauce.

And to go with the chicken – to be honest some crusty bread or roast potatoes along with a little green salad would be perfect – I chose another classic dish, moros y cristianos. Moros y cristianos is often served on its own when being frugal but works equally well as an accompaniment to chicken, duck and other meats as well as fish.

Translated to English, the name is Moors and Christians. This rice and bean dish originates from the time when the Moors occupied the Iberian Peninsula. The black beans represent the Moors and the white rice represents the Christians. It’s still a popular dish today. There are many variations of this recipe, some with a Cuban spicy twist, others, like the one in the Moro cookbook, quite simply flavoured with cinnamon, garlic, onion and bay.

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This month’s Cookery Book Supper Club book is Moro: The Cookbook. To kick off proceedings I made charcoal-grilled quail with pomegranate molasses.

OK, so I improvised a little with chicken thighs instead of quail and a domestic grill instead of a barbecue (the book does say that quail is an alternative to chicken and being unable to get hold of any of the wee birds and it being almost winter I felt justified in my substitutions) but I think it still counts as a recipe test in preparation for book club!

It’s a Lebanese recipe in which the bird is marinated in sticky pomegranate molasses and fragrant spices then slowly grilled. It is tangy, succulent and absolutely delicious.

The recipe says to serve the meat with a watercress and pomegranate seed salad and a pomegranate molasses dressing. The salad and dressing were amazing but served with the marinated meat, we really did get a good old slap around the taste buds, even with my own delicate herby couscous to calm things down! I’ll definitely make them again but I think I might hold off on the double whammy next time!

In case you’re up for giving your taste buds a wake up call and are wondering where you can get your hands on pomegranate molasses, try Souk Kitchen on North Street, where they have a small shop area, recipe cards, as well as a wonderful restaurant. For those not local to Bristol or who’d rather buy online you can find it at Maroque. Be warned you may well spend a fortune on ingredients, cookware and bits and pieces for around the home!

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