I am half French Moroccan on my father’s side, but I am pretty much all French/middle eastern when it comes to the way I cook.
So when I came across a fantastic review for Paula Wolfert’s new cookbook “The Food of Morocco”, I had to run and go buy the quite expensive cookbook ($45) to see if the hype was true. I am an addictive cookbook buyer and collector and have started a vast collection ( lets not even talk about the many –many cooking magazines that I subscribe to !)
Now for those of you who are wondering Wolfert’s book is non-kosher. Many of them are very simple to adapt and for the most part most do not even need adapting. She divides her cookbook into very easy to follow sections;from essentials recipes of Moroccan cooking, to soups, salads, dairy, meats, poultry & desserts.
I will say though her recipes are very authentic to the origin of cuisine and call for saffron water (she tells you how to make it) and other ingredients that are normal for a Moroccan kitchen, which many of us do not have. But I found that most are easy to find in my local grocery or are readily substitutable with what I already have in my pantry. Wolfret also cooks most of her dishes in a Tagine, which I highly recommend , but I found a Dutch oven worked just as well. .
It is evident right from the first page that Wolfert’s 40 years of experience in food and her extensive hard earned knowledge of middle eastern cuisine was going to transport me back to the spiced fragrant kitchen’s of my Moroccan great grandmothers who cooked this way every day. I was salivating from page one – literally!
Quinten Bacons vibrant & stunning pictures capture perfectly the explosion of color & animation, that are the day-to-day scenes of Moroccan life. The combination of gorgeous photos as backdrop to Wolfert’s mouth watering recipes and intimate details of her experience getting these recipes, makes this book worth the price.
This cookbook is for people who are familiar with the kitchen and If I had to rate it, the recipes are more on the medium harder slow side than the easy fast ones that we are becoming so use to. But for those who are looking for some great middle eastern recipes and don’t mind a little effort, you will love this book!
I chose Wolfert’s Chicken Smothered with Tomato Jam (page 289) as my first recipe to try, because I remember eating something like this at my great aunt’s house many years ago when I visited her in France. With my kosher twist and making her recipe a little more “user” friendly I came out with the most delicious dinner dish that I have made a few times since and my family has really enjoyed!
For me this recipe is a time trip back to my aunt’s kitchen where, I was a young girl again licking my plate clean!
Smothered Tomato Chicken –
Moroccan Style (adapted from Paula Wolfert’s original recipe)
6 large fat chicken thighs (3lbs)
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 strands saffron
1/3 cup grated red onion
2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 1/2 lbs red-ripe tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded & chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs. trim away the fat. Slide your fingers under the skin to loosen it from the flesh. Crush the garlic & 2 tsp. of the salt and mix together (use a mortar or blender if you have). Add & mix with the pepper, ginger, olive oil, saffron and rub under the skin of the chicken. Let stand for 30 minutes or overnight, covered in the refrigerator.
2. In a Dutch oven,sauté the grated onion, cilantro, 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, in some olive oil. Cook the onions for about 4-5 minutes and then place the chicken, with its marinade in the pot. Cook, covered, over low heat, stirring once, for 20 minutes. Then begin to slowly raise the heat to medium and cook uncovered, for 20 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot and continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered turning the chicken pieces often in the sauce, until very tender, about 20 minutes more. Take the chicken out and and wrap in foil to keep warm and moist. Allow the tomatoes to cook down until all the moisture evaporates, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching about 1 hr. The tomatoes will begin to fry and the sauce will thicken considerably.
4. Add the honey and the remaining 1/4 tsp. cinnamon to the tomatoes and cook for several more minutes to bring out their flavors. Reheat the chicken parts in the sauce, rolling them around to coat evenly.
5. Serve the chicken over rice or couscous. Scatter the sesame seeds on top as garnish. Serve warm or hot.