Tagines, Pastillas & Bread oh my!

This past Christmas/ New Years break, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel overseas. I love spending my annual leave exploring new places – preferably in regions I’ve never been to before. This time I decided to hit the continent of Africa, visiting the beautiful country of Morocco.

In addition to being the most spectacularly scenic country, the food is delicious!!! What they lack in range of local cuisine, they make up for in flavour, portion size, freshness and healthiness. Excluding breakfast which is a carb-palooza of bread, pastry, crepes and, well, more bread (say hello to the French influence), the Moroccans have quite a balanced diet. They eat lots of fruit and vegetables, good cuts of red and white meat – slow cooked to keep flavour, and  healthy plant based fats. Just don’t drink the tea – that stuff is pure sugar!!

Here is a smorgasbord of some of my favourite meals:

Almond pastries from Tangier

Breakfast buffet – carb central!

Moroccan Salad

Lemon Chicken Tagine – incredible form of cooking!

Dried fruit and nuts sold by weight

Meat options at a local BBQ house

Pasilla- chicken or fish ‘pie’ coated with sugar and almond meal (chicken) or cheese (fish)

Berber Omelette- aka Egg Tagine

Hearty Beef and Vegetable Tagine

Kefta Beef Tagine

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Prunes

Shrimp Tagine

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The Great Debate

Lately I’ve been struggling with one of life’s deepest, darkest most profound questions… Chocolate or cheese? I’m loosing precious sleep.

When I was younger, I firmly sat on the chocolate side of the fence, cheese aka that yellow often weirdly smelling stuff didn’t even register on my radar. But since going on a bit of a health kick a few years back and gaining an awareness, alright an obsession, with nuts and dried fruit of all forms, an avid interest in cheese sort of snuck on into my psyche, riding on the back of its dessert platter sidekick’s coat tails.

Now, I’m rather partial to a creamy hunk of Camembert, a gooey Washed-rind, some home baked cheesy bread and cheesecake of all forms. Ordering dessert has now become a deliberation on par in magnitude with the decision to create a second SITC movie.

The solution to my problem

The solution to my problem

The other day, just an average week night, I was watching a Better Homes and Gardens episode when one of my favourite Aussie chefs, Fast Ed’s segment came on. Despite his unfortunate nickname, I love his recipes because yes, they are quick and easy and generally use ingredients you already have or would tend to buy anyway. In this particular segment though, Fast Ed solved my problem… Chocolate cheesecake!!!! When you are going to do something, you might as well do it properly. Ed evidently also believes this. As such, his cake wasn’t just chocolate, it was triple chocolate: cocoa powder in the cookie base, white chocolate in the cream cheese and a milk chocolate and cream icing layer to finish. Genius isn’t it!?

Check out those layers

Check out those layers

I made it for my work mates aka my guinea pigs. The ones with serious sweet teeth loved it. The others enjoyed the cheesecake part and the base but found the top layer a bit hectic. Let’s be honest here, this isn’t a light dessert designed for the sugar uninitiated. It’s for people like me.

Check out the recipe I used below. The only amendment was using dark chocolate instead of milk. My conundrum is solved. With the situation sorted, I could do with a nap…. I’ve got some catching up to do!

Fast Ed’s Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

375g butternut cookies (1½ pkts)
60g dark cocoa powder
125g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg white
500g cream cheese
100g caster sugar
3 eggs
20g (2 Tbsp) cornflour
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
300g sour cream
200g white chocolate, melted and cooled
140g dark chocolate, chopped
250ml cream

Method

1 Preheat oven to 150°C. Combine the biscuits and cocoa powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a coarse crumb forms. Add the butter and egg white and pulse until well-mixed.
2 Press the biscuit mixture into the ides and base of a lined 22cm springform cake tin to an even depth of 2mm. Freeze for 10 minutes to firm up.
3 Put the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, cornflour and vanilla in the bowl of the food processor and purée until smooth, scraping down the sides several times. Add the sour cream and purée for 30 seconds, then add the white chocolate and purée for 2 minutes.
4 Pour the white chocolate mixture into the prepared base and bake for 45 minutes with a water tray in the oven for humidity. Set aside to cool slowly on a ire rack.
5 Once cooled, combine the milk chocolate and cream in a small saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth. Pour over the cake and refrigerate until set, then slice and serve.

 

Finished product

Finished product