Growing up in a Moroccan family and being the eldest daughter, helping was instinctive. In Moroccan culture, it was common for us children to tidy up the house, do the dishes and, above all, help with the cooking.
I remember I was little watching other girls love dolls and dresses. I felt silly, thinking I was more drawn to pots and pans.
You see, the kitchen was a comforting space in my house, something that many cooks and chefs can probably relate to.
At 6, it was much more than that; the wonder and exploration I had experienced on a stove or near a cupboard became one of the most cherished memories I have to this day. From those first flavors and the sensations I felt because of the smells coming from a little crack in the kitchen door, I knew food would be a big part of my life.
When I was 12, I made bread for the first time and tried my hand at making my first tagine. I had my late grandmother and my mother to show me the tangled ropes of Moroccan cuisine.
It took me years of practice and observation to get my hands and instinct used to the intricate patterns of spices, broths and rich pasta that created the basis of Moroccan cuisine. Even now, I’m still discovering new ways and combinations to pop those flavors every now and then.
With Moroccan cuisine, most of the dishes followed the same routine. It was a slow process that allowed us to really coax the dish through a flavorful transformation, watching various meats tenderize, reduce sauces, and cook pasta.
The culture of cooking in the Moroccan kingdom was ancestral. We have followed traditional cooking methods, right down to clay pots and ovens built into the ground. It was a whole world to explore, rich in history and rife with ancient tips and tricks. I loved everything and becoming a wife and mother allowed me to embrace the art of cooking even more.
I remember when I first moved to the Philippines in 2001, I was delighted to discover a new world of culinary culture and exploration while retaining the years of learning and cooking experience that I have gained. have accumulated in Morocco.
To my surprise, not many people knew about Moroccan cuisine. The confusion we had here between the latter and Middle Eastern cuisine bothered the original Moroccan in me.
Call it pride if you will, but the urge to want to educate the market slowly and intensely built up to a point where I knew the next step in my business was to tame the beast that Moroccan cuisine was. authentic.
And that’s how it started, a Moroccan cook living in the Philippines, what more can we say. This discovery of myself as a mother-cook pushed me to take a leap of faith and to have the eyes of the outside world on my dishes, leaving the comfort of smiles and compliments from my family.
I wanted to make strangers equally happy through my food. The Mercato Centrale, Salcedo and Legaspi weekend markets were great places that gave me the freedom to develop my ideas and gauge the crowds. I have met new friends, loyal customers and great chefs taking this step outside of my comfort zone and I have no regrets.
One of my favorite heartwarming tagines that my little family always craves on rainy days is the Kofta tagine, the recipe of which I share with you.
½ kg of minced sirloin with 20% fat
1 kg of red beefsteak tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
½ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
In the tagine, add your crushed tomatoes, garlic, half of the Italian parsley (set the rest aside). Season carefully with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika and simmer over low heat.
Prepare your ground beef by adding salt, pepper, paprika and the rest of your parsley. Mix well and make small meatballs.
When your tomatoes are halfway through cooking, add your ground beef balls. You can add a few kalamata olives and simmer for 30 minutes over low heat.
Just before serving, add the egg to the tagine and let poach on this silky tomato sauce. Decorate with a few more parsley leaves. Serve with homemade Moroccan bread.
Known as the Moroccan Lady, the author emigrated to the Philippines two decades ago. She is a wife, mother of three, home cook and enterprising adventurer. Discover his authentic tagines on @moroccanladyph on Instagram, tel. 0917-8093402; E-mail [email protected] are you also passionate about home cooking and want to be featured? Share with us your story and recipes, as well as mouth-watering photos. Send them to [email protected]