Bibliophile | Orange Blossom & Honey explores Morocco through food

Orange Blossom & Honey
by John Gregory-Smith
Simon & Schuster

John Gregory-Smith is a food and travel journalist who likes to go off the beaten track. In his latest book, he goes into Moroccan houses to see what is served to family and friends. Situated between the Mediterranean and the Sahara, Moroccan food has been influenced by successive waves of conquerors.

Flavours such as cumin, ginger, saffron, preserved lemons (now you can use those preserved lemons people gave you), honey, olives and orange blossom elevate the everyday to the extraordinary.

Some recipes come with a story and photographs of the area, others with photographs of the dish. The author discovered the Atlas Mountain Salad (with mint and pomegranate seeds) while passing through the Atlas Mountains.

Sometimes he adds a flavoursome twist such as walnut gremolata to Harissa Soup, and sometimes he substitutes ingredients such as the spicy, slow-cooked lamb shanks and cannellini beans that traditionally use a cow’s leg.

There’s street food such as msemen (pronounced miss-i-men) – a flaky, buttery pancake served with honey or stuffed with tomatoes or spiced meat. Of course, there are lots of tagines like Marrakesh Lamb – slow cooked in spices and served with harissa olives and mint tea and Mronzia – lamb seasoned with saffron, ras el hanout and honey and cooked with raisons and almonds.

Chicken dishes include a salad with preserved lemon and olives and a Chicken and Date Pilaf served with harissa yoghurt. Seafood dishes include Green Harissa Lobster, Moroccan Paella and a Monkfish stew made with saffron, preserved lemon and sultanas.

So now I’m seriously salivating. I’ve bought the ras el hanout spice mix and I’m ready to make a banquet for my friends. You might want to do the same or, with Xmas coming up, give the book as a present for someone who’ll do the cooking for you.

Lezly Herbert

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