Posts Tagged ‘North African cooking’

Cauliflower Soup, North African-Inspired

June 25th, 2012 13 comments

I love this soup. Pureed cauliflower is smooth, thick and surprisingly creamy—without adding any cream at all. The recipe is adapted from a soup found in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I have prepared this soup many times, changing it a little bit each time. I love it because it’s tasty, healthy and keeps well for days.

The spices in the soup suit the Arab palate. Cumin, one of the indispensable spices of Moroccan cooking, along with a touch of ginger, gives this soup a distinct North African flavor. The chopped tomatoes are more than garnish; they provide a sweet, cool contrast to the creamy soup.

Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4-6

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 medium-large onions, chopped (about 2½ cups)

2 gloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch cayenne (optional)

1½ teaspoon ground fennel (optional)

2 potatoes, diced (about 2 cups)

1 medium head cauliflower, chopped (about 5 cups)

4-5 cups hot water and/or vegetable or chicken stock

1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Juice from one lemon


2 small tomatoes, finely chopped

Chives, green onions or parsley, chopped

Lemon wedges


  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in the oil for 5 minutes until translucent. Lower heat and stir in the garlic, cumin, ginger, cayenne and fennel, if using. Stir briefly, add potatoes and cook for another minute.
  2. Add 4 cups hot water and/or stock. Turn up heat and bring to boil. Add the cauliflower and return to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. In a food processor or blender or with an emulsion blender, purée the mixture until smooth. If it’s too thick, add all or part of the extra cup of liquid. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gently reheat soup over low heat.
  4. Serve with a generous garish of chopped tomatoes, as well as a sprinkle of parsley, green onions or chives.


Question: What is your favorite North African soup?

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

June 10th, 2012 10 comments

I love serving this salad because it has a colorful presentation and it’s so healthy. The sweet peppers combine well with the salty goat cheese and citrusy lemon peel. Plus, it can be made ahead, and it holds up for hours.  The leftover bell peppers (if there are any) can be slipped into a sandwich or green salad or eaten cold out of the fridge.

The dish, which can be served as a starter or side salad, is adapted from a recipe in Flavors of Morocco by Ghillie Bason, one of my favorite Moroccan cookbooks, simply for its gorgeous photography.

This salad calls for preserved lemon rind, a common ingredient in Moroccan cooking and something you can easily make at home. However, it does take a month for them to be ready, so if you don’t have this ingredient handy, you can still make this colorful and flavorful salad.

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

          Serves 6 as a side dish

4 large red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers (no green)

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

½ small red onion, finely chopped

1 small package (125 g, 4½ oz.) goat cheese, crumbled (or substitute feta)

¼ rind preserved lemon or more, finely chopped (optional)


1. Roast the peppers. This can be done in advance or the day before. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C or Gas Mark 4). Place the peppers in a baking dish and drizzle the olive oil over top. Don’t skimp on the oil, as you will use it later in the salad. Roast for 30 minutes or more until the skin is wrinkly, buckled and partially browned. Reserve the pepper-infused oil to use later. Allow peppers to cool.

2. Peel skin off peppers (as much as you can). Remove stalks and cut each pepper lengthwise into quarters. Trim and remove seeds. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Arrange peppers on a platter, alternating colors, skin-side down. Mix the parsley and chopped onion and scatter over peppers. Next, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese, followed by preserved lemon, if using. Finally, drizzle the reserved oil over the top. Serve at room temperature.

Question: How do you serve roasted bell peppers?

Moroccan-style Lentil Soup with Chickpeas

August 16th, 2011 14 comments

I love this soup! This is a wonderful soup to eat as a meal with crusty bread—or to break your fast during Ramadan. This particular soup was adapted from a recipe in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. (A lovely cookbook). However, I changed the ingredients to make the soup heartier and healthier.  Also, I experimented with cooking methods to be able to prepare this on the stovetop or in a slow cooker.

If you’ve never used a slow cooker, it’s a wonderful tool—especially during Ramadan. Why? First, food can be prepped and simmering early in the day. Then when it’s time to break your fast, there’s less last-minute rushing around. Second, a slow cooker can free up your stovetop when entertaining. It’s traditional when hosting a Ramadan iftar to prepare many, many dishes. The slow cooker enables you to get a dish going early on and out of the way.

The ingredients in this recipe are generally straight-forward, except for one: harissa. This Tunisian hot chili sauce comes in a tube, can or small jar. It’s normally found in specialty stores; however, I sometimes have trouble finding it in Dubai. This time I used something called “harissa paste” and it worked just fine. For those that like more of a kick, serve extra harissa on the side.

This recipe calls for canned tomatoes, chopped. I suggest avoiding any type of ready-cut canned tomatoes and opt for whole plum tomatoes, which are higher quality. Chopping them yourself takes only a few minutes, and it improves the flavor of the dish.

Moroccan-Style Lentil Soup with Chickpeas

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, chopped finely

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled & minced

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup orange lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 14½ -ounce can whole plum tomatoes, chopped (reserve liquid)

1 15½-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

6 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock (and/or water)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 to 2 teaspoons harissa

Fresh pepper and 1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

Fresh cilantro or parsley (garnish)

Serve with extra lemon slices and harissa on the side.


  1. In a large skillet or cooking pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and cook until softened. Add the ginger and the four spices, stirring to coat the vegetables.
  2. Transfer the onion mixture to a slow cooker. Alternatively, keep the mixture in the cooking pot to cook on the stovetop. Add the lentils, chickpeas, stock, and chopped tomatoes, including the liquid.
  3. SLOW COOKER METHOD: Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours—or on High for 4 hours.
  4. STOVETOP METHOD: Simmer gently, uncovered, over low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add extra liquid if necessary.
  5. Just before serving, add the lemon juice and harissa and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with lemon slices and extra harissa on the side.

Tell me: what is your favorite Moroccan food—or Ramadan time-saver?