- For Her
“I wake up in the morning and throw the shutters open. It's dawn and the first prayers of the day have just hurled over the rooftops of Marrakech. Breakfast is home-made jam, honey, tea, freshly squeezed orange juice and a basket full of freshly baked, still warm breads – m'lawi, flat bread, pancake and croissant.”…
And with this, the irrepressible Peta Mathias begins her culinary adventures in one of the most exotic locations on earth: Marrakech in Morocco.
From the beautiful and eccentric Hôtel du Trésor and the souk at Ait Ourir, to the traditional home kitchen of Mohamed and Latifa and the exquisite cafes and pattiseries in the medina, discover the food, people and atmosphere that defines Marrakech.
2 kg thick-skinned, acidy lemons
2×1-litre preserving jars
300 g salt
water or lemon juice
1. Scrub the lemons with a hard brush.
2.With a sharp knife, cut each lemon lengthwise, stopping 1.5 cm before the bottom to keep the halves attached. Turn lemon upside down and rotate to cross-cut it in half lengthwise on the other side, again stopping 1.5 cm before the bottom.
3. Sterilise the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
4. Hold lemons open by squeezing gently and stuff both ends with salt. Close them with your hand and pack in the jars as you go.
5.When jars are full, press lemons down well and sprinkle over salt. Fill jar almost to the top with boiling water or lemon juice. Seal jars.
6. Leave the jars of lemons in a cool place to steep for at least three weeks. A white film may form on top – it’s natural and is washed off. What happens to transform the lemons is that they release their oily juice, which mingles with the salt and produces a honey-thick, unctuous syrup. Don’t discard it – use it in salad dressings and to flavour tagines and other stews.
To use a preserved lemon, remove it from the jar and rinse well in running
water. Slide the pulp off with your thumb and discard it – it is rarely used
in Moroccan cooking, except sometimes as extra flavour in a tagine. Cut the peel
into thick strips and use in tagines of fish, chicken or lamb. It is also added
to salads or relishes. The jar of lemons must be
refrigerated once open.
Lamb Tagine with Fennel, Preserved Lemons and Artichokes
Serves 6 people
6 large fresh artichokes or 12 tinned hearts, well drained
3 fennel bulbs
3 generous pinches of saffron
1 preserved lemon
1.5 kg lamb shoulder
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves garlic, smashed
- Remove outer leaves of the artichokes and scoop out choke, leaving the hearts. As you go, plunge them immediately into lemon water to prevent browning.
- Trim fronds (save them) off the fennel then wash, quarter and core. Pop them into the lemon water with the artichokes.
- Prepare saffron by soaking in ¼ cup of boiling water for 15 minutes.
- Remove flesh from the preserved lemon and discard it. Rinse peel and cut it into strips.
- Preheat oven to 180 °C (355 °F). Cut meat into large chunks then place in the tagine dish base. If you don’t have a tagine, use a regular casserole dish or clay pot.
- On top of meat put salt, pepper, ginger, cinnamon stick, garlic, saffron with its juice, preserved lemon strips and ¼ cup of water. Mix them around with your hands. Cover with tagine lid and cook in the oven for one hour.
- Remove the tagine from oven and add artichokes and fennel, mixing them in with the meat sauce. Put back in oven and continue cooking for half an hour.
- Serve immediately, bringing the tagine dish to the table. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds and eat with Moroccan bread.
This dish can also be cooked in a heavy-based pot or tagine on top of the stove.
Peta Mathias is a respected and prolific chef, author, broadcaster and television presenter. She also finds time each year to run very popular culinary adventures to Morocco, the South of France and Rajasthan, intended for travellers who love to cook. Peta has written ten books about food and travel and presented a prime time television food and travel show, ‘Taste New Zealand’, for twelve years. A show based on her Moroccan culinary adventures, called ‘Peta Unplugged in Marrakech’ and produced through Peta's own television production company Red Head Media, will broadcast in 2010. As well as food and travel books, Peta has also written two bestsellers about relationships, Can We Help It If We're Fabulous? and Just In Time To Be Too Late.
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