28 January 2012

Weekend Cooking: Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou

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When a cookbook opens like this:
Some people set out to learn to cook. They pursue it. They look for teachers. They go to cooking school. They practice and study. I became a cook in a way that could scarcely have been more different from all of that, in a place so far from where I ended up that it feels like a beautiful, brightly colored dream. I learned to cook from memory. Let me tell you how. (p. 1)
How can you not fall instantly in love? Mourad Lahlou's Mourad: New Moroccan, is a gorgeous cookbook: glossy paper with full-page photos that capture the food, colors, and ambiance of Morocco. It has everything that helps a cookbook stand out from the crowd, such as descriptions of ingredients, suggested brands, personal introductions to most recipes, mail-order sources, "Chef-to-Chef" tips, and a well-thought-out index.

And Mourad is a winner, but it's a winner mostly for ambitious cooks who live in California or a big city or who have the funds and inclination to mail order uncommon ingredients. I absolutely love the flavors in Lahlou's recipes: aromatic chiles, preserved lemons, cumin, seeds, and fresh herbs. In addition, this is a book I'll turn to again and again to learn about Moroccan cooking, dishes, techniques, and spice mixtures.

On the other hand, although I would order a dish like Steamed Lamb Shoulder with Saffron Butter and Cumin Salt in a heartbeat, I don't think I'd ever make it, despite the fact that I always have lamb in my freezer. And here's why.

The recipe is well written and very easy to follow, and Lahlou provides ample information about the hows and whys. But before I can make this recipe, I first need to make
  • Aged Butter
  • Lamb Stock
  • Clarified Butter
  • Chicken Stock
  • Cumin Salt
No matter how willing I am to spend a day or two in the kitchen, I'm not going to make five recipes before I can make one dinner. Many recipes rely on preserved lemon (yum!), but you must prepare the lemons a month in advance before you can use them. Yikes! I don't plan a day ahead, let alone a month.

Other recipes call for particular types of fresh figs and peppers, things like yuzu juice and liquid glucose, lovely citrus such as Meyer lemons and blood oranges, and other wonderful ingredients unavailable in my small town. It's a shame, really, because if I lived in New York or San Francisco, I'd be more inclined to give many of the recipes a try.

To be fair, if you were going to make a study of Moroccan cooking, then the time spent up front to make stocks, spice mixtures, and preserved lemons would be well worth it. You also would be willing to ship in what you couldn't get at home. But for a cook (like me) who wants make a Moroccan dish maybe every other month, the payoff drops off quickly.

Again, let me stress that Mourad is jam-packed with great information about Moroccan traditions and cuisine. It's a book I'll cherish because of the personal writing style and the look into a culture I know little about. Further, there are, in fact, a number of recipes that are straightforward and use readily available ingredients. The bread chapter calls to me, as do the soups and salads.

Here's a yogurt spread that looks delicious and easy to make.

Yogurt-Herb Spread

Makes 2 cups
  • 2 cups (476 g) whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 small or ½ large cucumber, preferably Armenian
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ teaspoons (4.5 g) kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons (2.2 g) grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon (1.5 g) ground white pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane
  • 2 teaspoons (2 g) chopped dill
To drain the yogurt: You'll need a deep bowl or other container and a wooden spoon or dowel. Line the bowl with a double thickness of cheesecloth. Spoon the yogurt into the center of the cloth and pull up the edges to form a pouch. Tie the ends around the spoon or dowel, adjusting the length so that the pouch is at least 2 inches above the bottom of the bowl. Refrigerate overnight to drain the excess liquid.

For the spread: The next day, remove the yogurt from the cheesecloth and put it in a large bowl. Discard the liquid.

Peel and seed the cucumber. Grate it on the medium-fine holes of a box grater to produce a pulpy mush. Put the cucumber pulp on a piece of cheesecloth, pick up the edges, and twist the cloth over the sink to remove as much liquid as you can.

Stir the cucumber into the yogurt, along with the rest of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days before serving.

To serve: [Lahlou] likes this best with warm grilled flatbread or pita chips.

Mourad was an Indie Next pick for December 2011. For more on Mourad Lahlou's type of cooking visit the website for his restaurant, Aziza.

Mourad: New Moroccan at Powell's
Mourad: New Moroccan at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Workman / Artisan, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781579654290
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: C+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Marg 1/28/12, 6:10 AM  

This does sound like a gorgeous book. I do like doing easy Moroccan style books, but it sounds like it may be a step too far for an ordinary home cook like me.

Uniflame 1/28/12, 6:26 AM  

I am like you. I can't even make recipes that I have to prepare things for 24 hours prior because I forget. I think that if I should make something a month in advance, I will forget that I ever made it within that time period ;)

Chinoiseries 1/28/12, 7:07 AM  

Sounds like a beautiful book that will also be an asset to be put on the coffee table :) Too bad that it requires so many steps to make one meal... because it would be nice to cook out of it more often than just once a week!

Jesse 1/28/12, 8:08 AM  

That herb yogurt spread seems delicious! I make a really similar dip quite often (my version of tzatziki), but it doesn't have nutmeg. An interesting addition, though... I may have to try it!

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 1/28/12, 8:15 AM  

Sounds like a great cookbook but for me it would be on my coffee table. Those sound like very involved recipes. I can barely concentrate on a a recipe with four already prepared ingredients. But I'd get it for information and pictures!

jama 1/28/12, 9:08 AM  

Sounds like a wonderful resource, and since I love to read cookbooks like novels, I'm not too worried about the difficulty of the recipes. I do appreciate your candid review and am sure there is much to learn in this beautiful volume.

Margot 1/28/12, 9:10 AM  

This sounds like a book I'd borrow from the library or a friend, just to read. It's not one to rely on for daily food preparation - at least for me.

Julie Goucher 1/28/12, 9:22 AM  

Looks a great book. Likewise, I am not a meal planner! Being organised to remove the chicken for dinner tomorrow (impressive eh!). I love lemon's but being organised to preserve them in advance is a no no for me. I did read a blog yesterday of a lady in Ontario who had a lemon tree. I might see if I can grow one here!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 1/28/12, 9:43 AM  

Some cookbooks are a better "fit" to read (culture, history, drooling over the pictures and descriptions) than to actually cook with. Of course, that depends on the home cook, but I'd be in the "read it" category (and unlikely to cook one of these dishes that requires so much prep and very advanced planning!)

caite 1/28/12, 10:07 AM  

difficult to get ingredients can put me off. one or two ingredients, ok, I may go the extra mile to get them. but honestly, how often am I going to do that?
but it sounds like a lovely book to page through and read!

Beth S. 1/28/12, 10:18 AM  

I'd definitely like to check this book out just to learn more about Moroccan cooking but I'm like you, I'm not going to make five different recipes just to get one dinner on the table. I love to cook, but I don't want cooking to seem like a chore either.

Linda 1/28/12, 12:16 PM  

I haven't had too much Moroccan food but I dislike having to buy specific thing that I might not be able to use for other meals. I too don't usually plan meals months in advance.

Gilion at Rose City Reader 1/28/12, 1:15 PM  

That yogurt spread sounds tasty. I've been making a lot of yogurt lately -- now I have an idea for how to use it at the neighborhood pot luck next week.

Vicki 1/28/12, 1:27 PM  

I've never tried Moroccan food, but would love to find a copy of this and check it out!

Belle Wong 1/28/12, 1:28 PM  

This actually sounds like a book my husband would love. It's crazy to me, but he is happiest when he's creating complicated recipes that require him to make several little recipes first. I might have to take a look at this one; if there are enough vegan offerings in it, it just might be a great addition to our cookbook shelves!

Heidenkind 1/28/12, 3:12 PM  

Holy moley. You could probably cheat and buy chicken stock, but I've never ever seen lamb stock in a store. It sounds like it's very well-written, but I'm with you: if I have to premake stock, it's not going to happen.

Anonymous,  1/28/12, 3:14 PM  

I love Greek yogurt and the herb spread sounds so good. I love cookbooks and from what you write sounds like a good one to have!

Amanda 1/28/12, 3:31 PM  

We have one cookbook that is a general Middle Eastern one and includes recipes from Morocco as well, and they've been fairly easy to make and find ingredients for. Maybe because they're simpler recipes?

Stacy at The Novel Life 1/28/12, 5:10 PM  

Oooo the recipe sounds so yummy! I love using (and eating) Greek yogurt!

Leslie @ This is the Refrain 1/28/12, 7:12 PM  

This book is pretty to look at... even if I don't think I'd ever make any of the recipes! It was neat to learn about everything, though.

Heather 1/28/12, 8:16 PM  

I'm in agreement that this is a coffee table book that would get well thumbed. That recipe sounds wonderful. Thanks for this helpful review.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 1/28/12, 10:02 PM  

I have a tough time with recipes that require so much advanced pre-work. Honestly that's what I'm finding tough with the crockpot--I find it requires me to plan ahead and sometimes that just doesn't work! Though after reading about some of Amanda's experiences with Middle Eastern cuisine (good experiences), I've been very interested!

Libby 1/28/12, 11:49 PM  

I tried preserving lemons once. I STILL don't know what went wrong...but, something definitely went terribly wrong!

Loved your review!


Libby 1/28/12, 11:58 PM  

Well, I am officially an idiot :( I accidentally linked you up to LAST week's 'Weekend Cooking.' So, then I linked to this week's...which is why there are two of them. And, I cannot figure out how to delete the first one. I'm just going to stop now before I mess anything else up and cause the entire internet to crash...

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 1/29/12, 2:38 AM  

I know very little about Moroccan cooking. I usually head for the soup section of the cookbook when the main dish recipes look daunting. It's tough to mess up a soup recipe.

Jane 1/29/12, 5:46 AM  

I've finally made it back. Yayy and look how much the list has increased.
A little touch of misc en place tonight.
I must make some visits.
I have never eaten or cooked Moroccan - I wonder if this is the year to venture forth into new delights?
that's my Twitter name if you are looking for me

Gnoe (@Graasland) 1/29/12, 9:01 AM  

LOL I know what you mean: if I need too many (unfamiliar) ingredients for a recipe I tend not to make them. There are some in my vegan cookbook, like when I have to make salsa first before I can make a certain bean dish or scrambled tofu. on the other hand: when I have some leftover salsa these kinds of recipes are nice to try. But who has some aged butter by coincidence??? :-o

Despite what I just said, I did cook some Turkish kisir last Sunday for which I needed to make pomegranate melasse first. Both recipes were very easy though, that helped. :)

Some leftover kisir found its way into my Monday bento as wel. Yay!

bermudaonion 1/29/12, 9:34 AM  

The book sounds fascinating, even if you don't cook from it.

Peggy@Peggy Ann's Post 1/29/12, 10:28 AM  

Sounds so good. I have always wanted to try Moroccan food!

Rhiannon 1/29/12, 11:08 AM  

Preserved lemons are insanely easy to make! They take maybe ten minutes and then they last quite some time. I do them once a year when I'm canning.
You should be able to buy a jar though at any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food shop.

Beth F 1/29/12, 11:22 AM  

Rhiannon: I'm sure you can buy preserved lemons at a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food shop. But such shops don't exist where I live. That's why I recommend this book for people who live in cities.

I might try to make my own -- I'm not *that* lazy of a cook. I'll report back in a month or so.

Peaceful Reader 1/29/12, 2:28 PM  

The recipes and topics sound delicious but I'd buy it just for the cover!

Diann 1/29/12, 3:13 PM  

This looks like it would be a beautiful book one you would want to display! Thank you for hosting and have a wonderful day!

Zibilee 1/29/12, 8:02 PM  

While these dishes sound fabulous, I am not much of a fussy cook, and can imagine that it would frustrate me that I had to prepare so heavily for one single recipe. I also don't really have access to a lot of the unique food items that would be needed, and I am hesitant to order them online. That being said, I do think the book sounds fantastic, and though I might not feast on the recipes, I would like to let my eyes feast on the pages! Great and very honest review today. It was much appreciated!

Joy Weese Moll 1/30/12, 12:07 AM  

Sounds like a wonderful armchair cookbook.

I don't discard the liquid from my strained yogurt -- I use it in baking instead of water or milk and in soup in place of some of the water or stock.

Daryl 1/30/12, 12:11 PM  

No food posts to share this week but I have a friend who loves in the LA area and is an amazing cook whose birthday is in March .. I am buying her this book!

Jane of JaneZworld 4/10/12, 2:41 AM  

Hmm How did I get to be Number 26? Well that's the hacked site but I have added the URL to the new location, its a bit smaller but its me and I am delighted to return.
Jane in Australia

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