A feast of flavours out of Africa

Karen Martini
Moroccan spiced chicken.
Moroccan spiced chicken. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Italian flavours are the inspiration for so many of my recipes, but so, too, are the flavours of North Africa and the Middle East and the influence of my meme's cooking.

Moroccan spiced chicken

This is in the Moroccan mechoui style, which refers to cooking over a fire, and is usually used for spit-roasted lamb. The marinade is also perfect for roast chicken - just have the patience to marinate it overnight, which makes all the difference.

1.6kg organic chicken, cut into 8 pieces

6 cloves garlic

12cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 bunch coriander, cleaned (roots and all) and roughly chopped

1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

3 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp whole cumin seeds


2 tbsp smoked paprika

3 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp caraway seeds

2 tsp chilli powder

150g soft butter

1 tbsp salt flakes

1. In a food processor, blitz all the ingredients (except the chicken) to a fine paste, then smear over the chicken pieces. Cover and marinate overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees fan-forced or 240 degrees conventional.

3. Spread the chicken in a small roasting tray (or eartheware dish) skin-side up with all the paste and bring to room temperature. The chicken needs to be quite snug in the roasting pan so that it 'wet roasts' and does not dry out.*

4. Pour 500ml of water into the tray. Roast for 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160 degrees and cook for another one hour and 15 minutes.

5. Serve with couscous, blanched greens and thick plain yoghurt.

Drink Ice-cold lager

Serves 4

* Clarified from earlier version.


Barley, roasted cauliflower, almond and feta salad

Roasting the cauliflower adds texture and a distinct nutty accent, which perfectly complements the barley, almonds and spice. This is a great side for grilled lamb or baked whole fish.

1 cauliflower, broken into small florets

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

120ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, juiced

2 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground

3 allspice berries, ground

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

100g pearl barley, cooked (boiled in unsalted water until tender) and drained

2 spring onions, finely sliced

50g blanched almonds, toasted in a dry frying pan

120g sheep's milk feta

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

fan-forced or 200 degrees conventional.

2. Toss the cauliflower florets in the cumin seeds and half the oil, season and spread on a roasting tray. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, then cool on the tray.

3. To make the dressing, mix the lemon juice, garlic, remaining oil, coriander seeds and allspice, then season with salt and pepper.

4. In a large bowl, toss the parsley, barley, spring onions and cauliflower through the dressing. Check the seasoning. Serve on a platter with the almonds and crumbled sheep's milk feta scattered over the top.

Drink Chenin blanc

Serves 4


Basbousa with pistachio and almond

Basbousa is a classic semolina cake, cooked throughout the Middle East and around the Mediterranean. My meme made it when I was growing up, using honey and rosewater, but she never worked from a recipe, all by feel. This is my version.

450g fine semolina

220g castor sugar

200g thick plain yoghurt

50g desiccated coconut

50g almond meal

75g self-raising flour

60ml milk

200g melted butter

1 tsp vanilla essence

About 30 bright-green shelled pistachios

About 30 blanched almonds

Rose petals, optional


300g castor sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp rosewater

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan-forced or 190 degrees conventional. Butter a shallow baking tin about 30 centimetres wide - square or round is fine.

2. In a large bowl, mix the semolina, sugar, yoghurt, coconut, almond meal, flour, milk, butter and vanilla until well combined. The mix will be a dense paste.

3. Spread into the baking tin, pushing it flat with a spatula. Cut into a four-centimetre diamond pattern and dot each diamond with a pistachio and an almond. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.

4. While the cake bakes, make the syrup. Boil the sugar with 200 millilitres of water for three minutes. Take off the heat, add the lemon juice and rosewater, then cool.

5. Once cooked, remove from the oven and while still hot, pour the syrup over. Cool and decorate with rose petals (if using).

Drink Mint tea

Serves About 30