A spicy aubergine dip with halloumi and a vegetarian take on the countrys signature pie
At least once a day this winter I have found myself mentally wandering the streets of Marrakech. There is something about it that I crave on grey, winter days; there is something warm and generous about Morocco, qualities made obvious by its food. The free-handed use of warming spice, the liberal use of sweetness in savoury dishes, the overflowing flavours.
This week I made two things I have loved eating there the most: zaalouk, a cousin of baba ganoush; and a sweet-potato pastilla – a messy, heady, spiced filo pie. And now I’m off to search for flights.
Spiced aubergines with halloumi (zaalouk – pictured above)
Half dip, half salad, and Morocco’s answer to baba ganoush. I eat this as a meal with grilled halloumi (as I suggest here), some flatbreads and a good green salad, but it would be brilliant as part of a meze or starter. Vegans could use firm tofu in place of the halloumi, or just leave it out. Thanks to my friend, the cook and writer John Gregory Smith, for the inspiration.
Prep 5 min
Cook 30 min
1 pinch cumin seeds
1 pinch smoked paprika
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
½ tsp sugar
Blacken the aubergines all over, either under a hot grill on a foil-lined tray, or by turning them with tongs over a lit gas hob. Make sure they char completely, then leave them to cool so that the skin comes away from the flesh.
For an authentic finish, peel the tomatoes (though I sometimes skip this step if I am in a hurry): score a cross in the base of the fruit, then cover them with just-boiled water. Leave for 30 seconds to a minute, then drain and cool slightly before peeling off the skin. Chop finely.
Heat the spices in a frying pan until fragrant. Add the oil, tomatoes and garlic, season well and fry for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start to break down. Stir through the tomato puree, vinegar and sugar, then squeeze the flesh from the charred aubergine into the tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes, until thickened slightly.
Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Cook the halloumi on it for two minutes on each side, then s. Serve it on top of the warm dip. Drizzle with extra-virgin oil, and scoop it all up with warm flatbreads.
Sweet potato and feta pastilla
I use a frying pan for this to ensure the bottom of the pastilla crisps up. Keep the filo sheets in the fridge until needed, or under a damp tea towel, to stop them drying out. Vegans could use a vegan-friendly filo (which many of the supermarket brands are): replace the butter with a vegan spread and leave out the feta (or switch to a vegan cheese).
Read more: www.theguardian.com