If you are struggling to get your kids to eat their greens you may be disheartened to hear that some Moroccans add a range of spices to aubergines and create a dish called zaalouk to get their kids to eat their veg. No beige and bland chicken nuggets for the children of Morocco. Zaalouk tastes pretty good to grown-ups too and tastes even better if left for a day in the fridge for the spices to infuse. It will keep for up to 5 days.
My food guide in Essaouira, Naima Dewy (www.cookingholidaysmorocco.blogspot.com), took me through the market in Essaouira where we gathered ingredients for our cooking class. I spotted two young boys, maybe nine or ten years old, popping olives in their mouths when stallholders weren’t watching. It’s a far cry from Nestlé supermarket checkout treats here.
Back at Naima’s family home in the countryside, which she shares with her photographer husband Darren Dewy (www.imagesinthesun.com/morocco-cookery), she dispensed tips and explanations while making the zaalouk . It was interesting to see the box grater being put to such diverse uses (or maybe that should be its full use). It’s a much under utilised piece of low-tech kitchen kit. Naima Dewy finds plenty of use for it, broadsiding the many expensive electronic blenders and choppers out there, and creating this highly flavoured vegetable dish. Zaalouk also contains the famed Moroccan rass el hanout, meaning ‘head of the shop’, an ‘all-spice’ of everything in a spice shop.
1 k aubergines
1 teaspoon sea salt, heaped
½ preserved lemon
1 large handful of coriander and parsley
4 cloves garlic, grated on a box grater
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pinches turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon el ras hanot
1 tablespoon paprika
1 pinch black pepper, freshly ground, a pinch is three fingers, not two
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Fill a large pot with water and bring it to the boil. Chop the aubergine so that the pieces are about half the size of your thumb. Place in the boiling water with the salt until soft, about 15 minutes.
2 Meanwhile grate the tomatoes with a box grater into a bowl. Grate the garlic using the box grater and set aside.
3 When the aubergines are cooked and soft, drain them thoroughly and using a potato masher press the vegetables through a colander to get as much water out as possible.
4 Put the vegetable oil in a large saucepan and heat to a medium heat.
5 Add the aubergine and the garlic and two teaspoons of salt. Combine and cook for three minutes.
6 Then bring up to a high heat, stir in the dry spices (not the preserved lemon), then add the tomato mix. Cover and cook for a further 15 minutes. Check and stir every 3 minutes. After 6 minutes add the preserved lemon and the juice of half a lemon.
7 When the 15 minutes are up mash the mix with a potato masher and check for seasoning. Serve as a starter and garnish with extra preserved lemon and tomato.
We ate the zalok hot but Naima says she likes it cold in the summer time. I think it would work well slathered on flatbread drizzled with olive oil or served hot with a shoulder of lamb. Delicious.
Tomorrow we turn to that quintessential Morrocan dish, the tagine. But Naima has come up with a fish tagine – a kefta sardine tagine to be precise – which is traditional to the fishing town of Essaouira. Follow me on twitter at @goldenshots for notifications all the tasty updates this week. #Essaouira