by David Allan-Petale
I’m a firm believer that a good book finds you. By this, I mean whenever I go into a library or a book shop I don’t look too hard; I just blur my eyes a little and see what my hands find. I’ve found some of the most influential and enjoyable books of my life this way, and the cookbook, Casa Moro, by Sam and Sam Clark snuck up on me just like this. I saw it in the corner of my vision in my local supermarket and threw it in the trolley.
The couple who wrote it run a restaurant in London, Moro, where they draw upon their love for Spanish and Muslim Mediterranean cooking. I’d just returned from a trip to Portugal, and had also been to Spain, Turkey and Morocco, loving the food in all those places. I decided to tackle four dishes from the book – serving them up in pairs over two nights.
First off the mark was Merzula Con Limon (Hake with Lemon and Bay) with a very simple Turkish chopped salad. With the fish I smashed up some garlic, bay leaves, salt, lemon juice and olive oil with our trusty pestle and mortar then rubbed the fragrant paste all over 4 thick hake steaks. I then fried the marinated fish in some butter and olive oil and added some flour and bay leaves to the pan along with 75ml white wine and 125ml fish stock. This made a lovely simmering sauce for the fish to absorb, sealing in lots of flavour.
The salad was dead easy – just a finely chopped mix of cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, red and green peppers, coriander and parsley. I mixed in a dressing of crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper, then topped the salad with Greek yoghurt diluted with some milk and painted with melted butter and chilli flakes. Yum!
Next up was Lamb Mechoui with cumin and paprika salt with a side of slow cooked fennel with dill. The lamb chops were amazing – just bash up a mix of cumin seeds, sweet and hot paprika and sea salt to make a marinade which you then rub all over the meat. Brush the four marinated chops with melted butter then grill until crispy. The fennel is a great accompaniament. Just chop two bulbs into fifths and brown them in a saucepan on a high heat, turn it down and slow cook for a while, then add garlic, dill, then some water and cook until the fennel is soft.
Every mouthful of these meals was like reaching deep into my memory and plucking out the sights, sounds and tastes of Spain, Morocco and Turkey. I often think that food is the best thing about travel; you remember the meals far more than the statues and paintings and buildings. Maybe it’s because eating is a shared experience that you can also enjoy for yourself. I’m glad I picked up Casa Moro, it makes me wonder what else I can cook and best of all, where else I can go.