01 May 2013

Moro

 In recent years, Spanish food has been all the rage.  It is the other Mediterranean food. Hop a boat to North Africa and you get a whole new spin on Mediterranean.  While elBulli was the moon for molecular gastronaughts, Spaniards have been eating food for quite some time.  

So how does one find out how to cook, simple, delicious Spanish food.  Let's start with simple delicious Italian food.  The River Cafe in London is one of the world's best restaurants.  It offers up, simple, clean, seasonal Italian food.  It has also offered up a slew of fabulous cooks.   If you are a famous chef in London, there is a good chance you once worked at The River Cafe.

That was the case for Sam and Sam Clark.  One is Samantha and the other Samuel but which is which?  After working at The River Cafe and honeymooning in Morocco, the duo decided to open a cafe that would spotlight the flavors of the Mediterranean from a Spanish point of view and in the late 1990's they opened Moro.  It quickly became THE place to eat in London.  In 2001, Sam and Sam published their cookbook which was an instant hit.

Unlike Italian food which now has a stronghold in even the tiniest towns in America, Spanish cooking hasn't exactly permeated the country.  That means there are some spices and condiments that require a bit of shopping.  But once you find a supplier, you are golden.

At Moro they are very fond of harissa.  Harissa is one of those condiment used with the same ubiquitous flare that Americans use mayo.   Those this one is hot and red!   More an more, one can find harissa in larger supermarkets, but Moro makes their own.   Once you try this, store bought will never be OK.   Many harissa recipes call for dried peppers but Moro's spin it to use fresh peppers along side the canned piquillos.


Harissa

250 g long fresh red chiles
4 garlic cloves
Sea salt
3 heaped teaspoons coarsely ground caraway seeds
3 heaped teaspoons coarsely ground cumin seeds
1 level teaspoon ground black cumin seeds (optional)
100 g jarred piquillo peppers, or 1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 dessertspoon tomato purée or tomato paste blended with a little water
1 dessertspoon red-wine vinegar
2 level teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. It is advisable to wear rubber gloves when preparing the chiles. Slice the chiles in half lengthwise. Lay each chile, cut side up, on a cutting board, cut side up and gently scrape away the seeds and fleshy veins, discarding them. Roughly chop the chiles and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, and half of each the spices; process until smooth. Add the piquillos and process. It’s important that the paste is as smooth as possible.

2. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Now add the remaining ingredients—the rest of the spices, tomato purée, vinegar, paprika, and olive oil. Taste and season with more salt to balance out the vinegar. Harissa keeps well in the fridge, but be sure to cover it with a little olive oil to seal it from the air.

Now that you have it made, what to do with it???

At Moro, they bath a nice plump chicken in the paste and roast it.  Couldn't be better!

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