Moroccan recipes: Zaalouk, lamb and carrot tagine, North African bread

Diana Lampe
Easy and delicious: Moroccan lamb tagine with carrots, preserved lemons and olives with Moroccan semolina bread (Khobz ...
Easy and delicious: Moroccan lamb tagine with carrots, preserved lemons and olives with Moroccan semolina bread (Khobz dyal smida) and Cucumber mint salad. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

This week my recipes are from Morocco. I like Moroccan food in the warmer weather and hope you will too. The first recipe is for zaalouk, a tasty eggplant and tomato salad. It can be served with bread as an appetiser or to accompany the main dish. The Moroccan lamb tagine is an easy and delicious dish that has become a family favourite. Many of my friends make it regularly too. It conveniently tastes better the next day. You can cook it in a casserole or large saucepan and don't need a tagine. The tagine recipe was originally given to me by my friend Kerri West who served it for lunch at her family home, 'Moorilla,' in the countryside at Young on November 1, 2000. I like to add both the preserved lemon and olives to the tagine, but you can use one or the other. The carrots are an addition of mine and I do vary the spices and sometimes add ginger, paprika or nutmeg. The basic tagine recipe can also be used with chicken. In Morocco khobz (the local bread) would be served with a tagine and used to scoop up the meat and vegetables, but you can have it with instant couscous instead, as we sometimes do. I have included a recipe for North African semolina bread which only needs to rise once, meaning it doesn't take too long to make. The leftover bread is very good toasted for breakfast with butter and honey. 

I like to serve a refreshing cucumber salad with the lamb tagine. For this, grate three part-peeled and deseeded Lebanese cucumbers and mix with two sprigs of mint, shredded. Dress with a tablespoon of lemon juice, one and a half tablespoons of olive oil and half a teaspoon of orange blossom water. Chill.

Zaalouk (Moroccan eggplant and tomato salad)

If you can, try to make the zaalouk a day ahead for the flavours to develop. This recipe is based on one from The Food of Morocco, by Paula Wolfert.

Full flavoured: Zaalouk (Moroccan eggplant and tomato salad) served with bread as an appetiser or to accompany the main dish.
Full flavoured: Zaalouk (Moroccan eggplant and tomato salad) served with bread as an appetiser or to accompany the main dish. 

2 medium eggplants (about 800g)

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

500g roma tomatoes, deseeded and skinned or drained canned tomatoes

½ tsp hot paprika or pinch of cayenne

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp toasted and ground cumin seeds

sea salt and pinch of sugar

juice of 1 lemon to taste

1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley

1 small bunch of coriander

Moroccan bread or French baguette to serve

You can grill the eggplant on a barbecue; otherwise preheat the oven to 200C. Prick the eggplants with a fork a few times and place on a baking tray. Roast for about 40 minutes, turning them halfway, until the skin is darkened and the flesh tender. 

Cut the eggplants in half and leave to drain cut-side down in a colander. When cool, scoop the flesh from the skin and return to the colander. (Discard the skin.)

Press out the juices and then chop finely with a knife and mash with a fork. Chopping the eggplant by hand gives a better result but you could briefly pulse chop in a food processor.

Chop the tomatoes.

Gently heat the olive oil with the garlic in a frying pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, salt and sugar and fry for five minutes or so until cooked. 

Add the eggplant, hot and sweet paprika and cumin and stir-fry for about ten minutes to cook away the juices. Stir in the juice of half the lemon or more to taste.

Finely chop the parsley and coriander and mix half through the salad. Keep in the fridge overnight.

Taste the zaalouk and adjust to your liking before serving. Spread in a shallow dish and sprinkle with remaining herbs. Serve at room temperature as an appetiser or side dish with Moroccan bread or baguette.

Lamb tagine with carrots

Serves 6

Ras el hanout (spice mix): 1 tsp each of ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, sliced

900g cubed shoulder of lamb

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley including young stalks, roughly chopped

sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

5 smallish carrots (450g), peeled and cut in half across and then lengthways

2 tsp honey (optional)

½ preserved lemon, flesh removed and discarded (optional)

1 handful of pitted green olives, rinsed (optional)

1 small bunch fresh coriander or parsley to serve

Place the onions in a tagine, casserole or saucepan with the olive oil and fry on medium heat for five minutes to soften.

Add the meat, the spice mixture, salt and plenty of pepper and stir-fry for a few minutes being careful not to burn the spices. Add the parsley (and coriander too if you like) and about three cups of cold water, enough to cover the meat. Add the honey too, if using.

Bring to the boil, turn the heat down, partially cover and simmer for one and a half to two hours until the meat is tender.

Add the carrots an hour into the cooking time. Give an occasional stir and add more water if needed; if there is too much liquid, remove the lid and reduce.

When the meat is very tender, add the sliced or diced preserved lemon peel and/or green olives.

Garnish the tagine with fresh coriander or parsley and serve in shallow bowls with bread or couscous.

Khobz (North African semolina bread)

1 and ½ cups fine semolina or 1 cup fine semolina and 1/2 cup unbleached plain flour

1 tsp dried yeast

¾ tsp salt

½  tsp sugar

1½ tbsp toasted sesame seeds (divided)

½  tsp aniseed (optional)

1 scant cup warm water

2 tbsp (40ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 egg yolk beaten with a little water for glaze

Mix the semolina or mixed flours with the yeast, salt, sugar, half the sesame seeds and aniseed (if using) in a large bowl. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and about half the tepid water at first; then add more water as needed to bring the mixture together to make a soft dough.

Dust the bench with semolina or flour and tip the dough out onto it. Knead by hand for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding more water if needed. The kneading can also be done in an electric mixer with a dough hook.

Work the remaining olive oil into the dough and form into a ball seam-side down. Cover with a damp tea towel and rest for 15 minutes.

The bread will be baked as one large round loaf on a pizza tray, although it can be formed into smaller loaves. Dust the tray with coarse semolina or cornmeal.

Place the ball of dough on the tray and gently flatten with your hands. Brush the top with the egg yolk glaze and sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds.

Cover with a towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or longer until doubled in size. I put it in the oven on defrost at 30C which works beautifully.

Preheat the oven to 180C fan or 200C regular. Bake the bread for about 20 minutes until it is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool on a rack or in a towel lined basket. Cut into wedges to serve. It is best eaten on the day it is baked; otherwise it can be frozen.