I am beginning to see a pattern in Moroccan cooking. They’re big on fragrant flavours, almost sweetly perfumed at times, think bastilla, a pie usually made with pigeon or chicken and topped with sweet almonds. Yet, very hot chilli flavours are rare enough. A little heat goes a long way in my view and too much can kill the layers of careful spicing.
The pastry used in bastilla is called warka and can be found in all sorts of dishes like the crispy seafood briwat triangles we’ll make below. The pastry is like a filo pastry but made with vinegar, water and flour. The super-thin warka pastry is cooked on a pan placed over a pot of boiling water. My food guide Naima Lewey, buys hers from a woman who makes warka to sell, as a baker might. Naima pointed out that sourcing can be a problem, the cook sometimes doesn’t get up in time to make it. Naima has been through a few warka makers and luckily for us ours came up trumps. You are unlikely to find warka in Dublin so filo pastry will do a good job for this recipe.
These little triangles are filled with prawns but Moroccans let their imaginations run wild with all sorts of other different fillings too. Served as a starter or as nibbles at a party they can be prepped the night before and then cooked in the oven.
40g vermicelli, thin
Vegetable oil, enough to cover the bottom of a pan
2 onions, medium
1 pinch sea salt
3 small tomatoes, or 2 large ones, skin peeled and diced
1 handful green olives, chopped finley
1 pinch harissa, optional
½ teaspoon fish tagine mix
1 teaspoon paprika, heaped
1 pinch black pepper
1 teaspoon ras al hanoot, heaped
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoon olive oil, or argan oil
½ kilo prawns
½ lime, juiced
¼ preserved lemon, about a tablespoon, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon coriander, finely chopped
1 packet of filo pastry
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 egg yolks
- Soak the vermicelli for 5 minutes in boiling water
- Place a saucepan on a high heat with the vegetable oil then add the onion and salt. Cover and cook for three minutes. Then stir and reduce the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and cook for another three minutes.
- Then add the olives, harissa, the fish tajine spices, paprika and black pepper. Combine and allow to cook out for a minute.
- Add the ras al hanoot, the turmeric and cumin. Then add two tablespoons of olive oil, or argon oil, if using.
- Add the prawns, the juice of half a lemon and a quarter of preserved lemon.
- Grate two cloves of garlic into the pan and add the coriander. Combine the mixture. Cook for another four minutes. Then add the vermicelli and combine.
- Preheat the oven to 200c.
- Lay out the filo pastry into long strips, about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. Brush with melted butter and wash the top end, furthest from you, with egg yolk. Roll into triangles, as shown, making sure the contents are secured with the egg yolk at the top.
- Place on a baking tray on a sheet of baking paper. Brush the tops with melted butter. Then place in the oven, reduce the oven to 150c or 180c and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
You can replace the olive oil with argan oil, if you’re feeling flaithiúlach, but if you dial up the spice with harissa the nutty argan oil will most likely be lost. Do pay attention to the methods Naima uses throughout all her recipes as she saves a lot of time, and washing up, by little changes like grating the garlic directly into the pan.
Next up from Essaouira: blessèd are the cheese-makers. Yep, they make beaoootiful goats’ cheese here. Follow me on twitter at @goldenshots for notifications of all the tasty updates from Morocco. #Essaouira