Category Archives: Food and Drink

Moroccan Recipes With A Contemporary Twist

Moroccan recipes

If you have read some of my previous blog posts you will know that I love Moroccan food: the mouth-watering appetisers, the mix of spices in the tagines, the couscous, and the sweet, sticky, pastries. Despite purchasing local spices in the souks and asking for recipes when I am travelling I have struggled to recreate some of the dishes so I was pleased to discover that the chef and creator of the website, My Moroccan Food, Nargisse Benkabbou, has written a cookery book. Casablanca is packed with mouth-watering Moroccan recipes.

Moroccan Staples

The book includes the staples of Moroccan cuisine: the traditional spice mix, ras el hanout and three variations of harissa, the paste from chillies and sweet red peppers. Chermoula, the garlicky, lemony, sauce with parsley, coriander, paprika and cumin, which adds a kick to a dish is also included.

Contemporary Moroccan Recipes

Nargisse has taken these traditional flavourings and added a contemporary twist. For example, there is a recipe for ras el hanout in a crab and cauliflower soup, sticky ras el hanout and peach short ribs, and a ras el hanout carrot cake. Chermoula, traditionally used with vegetables and fish is sweetened and added to beef and to cheese with aubergines. Harissa is combined with lemon in a chicken tray bake with sweet potatoes and cauliflower.

There are tagine recipes, mouth-watering fish recipes, like the Essaouira fish couscous, lemon honey and rose Swiss chard stuffed bream and chermoula crumbed cod. The bread recipes range from Khobz, the bread you will see at most meal times to Mlaoui flatbreads, often served at breakfast and amlou rolls.

Moroccan recipes

To date I have made the pistachio, orange and olive oil flourless cake, pictured above, which is deliciously moist and full of flavour and chermoula with crumbed cod. Not in the book but also recommended is a recipe for beetroot, chocolate and rose brownies which can be found on Nargisse’s website.

Moroccan recipes

If you like Moroccan food and like to experiment with flavours I recommend this book of Moroccan recipes with a contemporary twist. Casablanca is published by Mitchell Beazley and is available here.

Read our Q&A with Nargisse Benkabbou here

Find out how Khobz is baked in the Medina here

Please note this post is not an ad.

Spinach and Cumin Soup Recipe

Shreyas Recipe for Spinach and Cumin Soup

Mani, one of the five chefs at Shreyas yoga and wellbeing retreat in Nelamangala, Bangalore, showed me how to make this healthy, nourishing spinach and cumin soup. The food at the Shreyas ashram is vegetarian and is created according to yogic principles so it’s “fresh, light and nutritious”.  Ingredients are hand-picked from the retreat’s organic gardens and every meal is a culinary delight.  There’s more to follow on Shreyas in another post, for now I am sharing this delicious soup recipe, which is quick and easy to make and full of flavour, in time for the Easter break.


 Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1/2 a red onion finely chopped
  • 1 packet of fresh, organic, spinach
  • 1.5 tblsps olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 300 ml cold water
  • 50 ml skimmed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon powder



  • Heat the olive oil in a large wok.
  • Add the cumin, garlic and onion and allow to lightly brown.
  • Add the spinach leaves and reduce.
  • Once the spinach has reduced add 300ml water (the water must be cold) and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove the wok from the heat and allow to cool.
  • When the mixture is at room temperature add 50ml skimmed milk, the cardamom powder and cinnamon then blend.
  • Reheat and enjoy.


spinach and cumin soup Maud interiors



My Moroccan Food Q & A

My Moroccan F


Q & A with Nargisse Benkkabou, creator of My Moroccan Food

I’ve visited Morocco many times on sourcing trips and on holiday and really love the cuisine; the mix of spices in the tagines, the hot and cold salads, mouthwatering appetizers and of course, the sweet, sticky pastries.

I have been looking for a good source of Moroccan recipes since my last trip and came across a wonderful blog, My Moroccan Food, full of inspiring recipes accompanied by beautiful photographs, so today I am talking to Nargisse Benkkabou, a Moroccan food writer, photographer, cook and creator of My Moroccan Food,


What motivated you to start blogging about Moroccan food?

I decided to start my blog straight after my cookery training last year. I had an urge to share my love of food and I chose to focus on Moroccan food because I realized that a lot of my friends love the food but rarely cook it at home. My aim is to make Moroccan cuisine more accessible.


What are the key ingredients of Moroccan cuisine?

  • Spices: saffron, turmeric, ginger, sweet paprika, cinnamon, ground coriander
  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Preserved lemons
  • Fresh coriander
  • Almonds

The main dishes are tagines, stews of spiced meat and vegetables, prepared by slow cooking in a shallow earthenware dish with a conical lid. Moroccan cuisine is also famous for its couscous.


What is your favourite dish?

There are many different types of tagines in Morocco but my favourite is chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons.


Tell us about your Moroccan cookery classes?

I am very excited about my classes, which will be launching in London soon. I am planning to teach classic recipes such as pastille, a type of meat pie, typically filled with spiced pigeon meat and apricots and having a sugared crust and my favourite chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives, to individuals or small classes of up to three people.


You have a delicious looking recipe for Almond and Honey Briouates, which you have kindly allowed us to share. What are the main ingredients for these bite-sized sticky sweet delicacies that you find everywhere in Morocco.

  • Almonds, cinnamon, sesame seeds, anise and orange blossom water

Almond And Honey Briouates – Dairy Free (Coconut Oil)



Briouates are small stuffed pastries that are filled with savoury or sweet fillings such as meat, cheese or almond paste.

Almond briouates are very popular in Morocco, they are mainly made of almonds and honey and gently seasoned with orange blossom water and cinnamon.

The pastry we use the envelope them in Morocco is warka, unfortunately there is no warka in London. The best substitute to warka is filo pastry, which I also used to make bastila.

Traditionally the almond paste (the filling) is made of ground fried almonds and then the whole pastry is fried. Yes, double frying. Sounds a bit like too much frying, right?

Today, I chose to make the briouates the way my mom does them (cause she always knows best!) this means that I didn’t fry any of the ingredients to make the briouates. I simply roasted the almonds in the oven and also baked the briouates in the oven.

The result tastes amazing, I found that the baked briouates feel lighter than the fried ones I tried in the past.

If you love honey and almonds you have to try this recipe! The pastry is crunchy and covered with honey, the inside has a deep and strong almondy flavour and a sweet orange blossom water aroma.

Also, in my quest to make Moroccan recipes more accessible I used coconut oil instead of butter to brush the filo pastry and to make almond paste, I think it tastes better than with butter. Ha!


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Makes 25 small briouates

300 gr blanched almonds
80 gr caster sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons orange blossom water, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
20 gr odourless coconut oil, solid
20 gr odourless coconut oil, melted
200 gr filo pastry
300 gr honey
Ground nuts or chopped dried fruits for decoration



• Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).

• In a greased baking tray, place the blanched almonds and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake in the oven until lightly tan, about 20 min (middle shelve). Give the almonds a good stir halfway through cooking.

• In a nut grinder or a food processor transfer the roasted almonds and add the caster sugar, 2 tablespoons orange blossom water, cinnamon and salt. Process until all the almonds are ground.

• Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)

• Transfer the almond mixture in a bowl and add 20 gr solid coconut oil. Mix until the ingredients are combined all together and knead to a solid mass.

• Unroll the filo and cut the pastry lengthways into 6 cm large and 30 cm long rectangles. Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry and keep the filo rectangles covered with a damp towel until ready to use to prevent them from drying out.

• On a work surface place a filo rectangle, brush it with coconut oil. Top the corner of the rectangle with a spoonful of almond paste and fold to form a triangle, up to the right and left, until the brioua is formed.

• Repeat until you’ve exhausted the almond paste and the filo pastry.

• Brush the small briouates with coconut oil and place in the oven to cook for 10 to 12 min until lightly golden.

• Meanwhile heat the honey with 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water. Avoid burning by controlling the heat, (once the the honey is foamy you should reduce the heat).

• Once the briouates are baked and golden, immediately transfer them to the simmering honey and soak the pastries for 2 to 3 minutes (flip the briouates if necessary).

• Remove to a flat dish to dry and cool before serving. Decorate with ground nuts and/or chopped dried fruits.



• If you use butter instead of coconut oil, use the same quantities and replace the solid coconut oil by softended butter and use melted butter instead of the melted coconut oil

• You should be able to close the pastry with the coconut oil (or butter) brushed on the filo pastry, however if you struggle to do so, use an egg yolk.

• Variation: Blanched almonds and honey briouates. The filling in this variation will taste more like marzipan, Do not roast the almonds and follow the recipe as instructed.


For more delicious recipes and to find out about Moroccan cookery classes follow Nargisse’s blog:

Baking bread in the Medina


Communal Bread Ovens in the Medina, Marrakech


Moroccan bread or Khobz, is an important part of the country’s cuisine.  It’s a flatbread, made with white or wholewheat flour with a thick crust and it’s served at every meal.   It is used like a utensil to scoop food and  to soak up the delicious tajine sauces.  Not all families within the Marrakech Medina (and other cities in Morocco) have ovens so if you wander through the streets in the morning you may see women, or sometimes children, carrying metal trays of dough, biscuits or tajines to the communal bread oven.   Every district or neighbourhood has a communal bread oven, a hammam (one male and one female) often alongside the oven to share the heat source, and a mosque. The locals drop off the dough with the baker and for a few dirhams he bakes their bread or biscuits or tajines.


I like to stay in the Medina when I am visiting Marrakech so that I can explore the narrow streets and get a glimpse of local life.  These shots are from the communal bread oven near Riad 72 (more about this wonderful Riad in a later post) in Bab Doukkala in the Medina.



Wajid, the baker, with Khobz dough ready for baking.


Making room for more bread.


 Flatbread cooling on the tiles and on the racks waiting for collection.  Typical Moroccan biscuits ready for collection far right.


Traditionally Moroccans have used exotic, brightly coloured, lidded baskets called tbiqa to store the bread.  These hand-woven baskets are made from palm leaf, which is covered in wool in a variety of colour combinations and patterns.  You can see our selection of these quirky  baskets here.



 Moroccan bread baskets



Casa Oaxaca

An oasis of calm in the heart of Oaxaca

Casa Oaxaca is an oasis of calm in the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico.  A place to escape after a day of sightseeing or, in my case, a long day of dusty car journeys and meetings with cooperatives.  Located in the historical centre in an eighteenth century colonial house, it’s a charming boutique hotel with only seven bedrooms.


casa oaxaca


It’s known as the ‘art hotel’ because each of the rooms cleverly mixes Oaxacan handicrafts, from the hand-woven ‘mantas’ or blankets on the beds, to the carved headboards, with artwork from contemporary Oaxacan artists.

It’s also known for its cuisine as the restaurant is part of the famous Casa Oaxaca restaurant, which is split across two sites.  I had the most delicious food I have tasted in Mexico at the hotel and at the main restaurant.  For breakfast you are tempted with a long list of delicious hot dishes but I went for the yoghurt, fresh fruit and muesli option accompanied by a traditional Mexican slightly spicy hot chocolate and followed by freshly baked pan dulce, similar to banana bread but with dates and mango too.




The sopa de frijoles, black bean soup, was amazing and the ensalada de jitomate, a tomato salad with a mix of different types of tomatoes, including the tiny green tomatillos just seen in the photo below, accompanied by a special salsa and tortillas was the perfect lunch after a morning searching for naturally dyed rugs.


lunch at Casa Oaxaca


In the heat of the day you can relax in the cactus and Bougainvillea filled patio, take a siesta in a hammock on the roof terrace, visit the library to read up on the region, or cool off in the refreshing pool.  You won’t want to leave.



Hibiscus Tea or Té de Jamaica

It’s a blustery day here in London perfect weather for an afternoon cup of Hibiscus tea.  I came across Hibiscus tea or Té de Jamaica, as it is known in Mexico, when I was travelling a few months ago.   It’s a really refreshing, quite tart, drink made from Hibiscus flowers which can be consumed hot or cold.  It is said to be high in Vitamin C and have various health benefits too.  The tea is popular in Latin America,Africa and the Middle East.  In Mexico you can buy bags of the magenta flowers in the local market but it is possible to obtain the flowers in health food shops over here or online via companies like the Chiswick Tea Company.



There are lots of ways of preparing the tea, everyone has their own special recipe and there are lots of videos explaining how to make it.  Here at Maud HQ we like the tartness of the drink so tend not to add  sugar.   I suggest you make the tea or agua refrescante and add sugar to taste.  Here is my version of the recipe:


Hibiscus Tea Recipe

2 litres of water

1 large cup of dried Hibiscus flowers

1 inch cube of peeled root ginger

Juice of 2 limes (if drinking cold)

Lime or orange slices to decorate (if drinking cold)

(If you have a sweet tooth add brown sugar or agave syrup to taste)


1.  Put 2 litres of water in a saucepan, add the peeled ginger and bring to the boil

2.  Add the cup of dried Hibiscus flowers and simmer for 20 minutes

3. Remove the Hibiscus flowers and serve hot

4.  If drinking cold add the juice of two limes and allow to chill in the fridge

5. Serve over ice and decorate with a slice of lime or orange

6.  It  tastes great with a large splash of rum too.


Just a word of warning this jewel-coloured, magenta drink will stain so prepare and drink with caution.




Blood Orange Juice the perfect kick start to the weekend

If you too have had a long week and need something to kick start your weekend  this juice is the perfect pick me up.  I tried a Blood Orange juice during the week at Whole Foods and I have just recreated it at home.  It’s so simple to make and it really packs a punch.  It’s healthy too!   All you need are three large peeled oranges, one beetroot (I used a cooked one) and a large chunk of ginger, about  3cm long. Throw everything into a juicer and blitz it.  Et voila!




Happy weekend everyone!