Be­gin beau­ti­ful friend­ship with Casablanca ...

Writer Nar­gisse Benk­ab­bou’s in­ter­est in cook­ing be­gan as a young child when she watched her mother at work in their kitchen. Now she wants to make Moroc­can food ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one, she tells Ella Walker

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FOOD -

You might think you know what cous­cous is, but Nar­gisse Benk­ab­bou is about to change all that. “When I came to Eng­land and peo­ple were eat­ing their cous­cous com­pletely dif­fer­ently, I was like, ‘This is re­ally weird’,” says the food writer.

“In Morocco, the stuff in the packet, we call it semolina,” she ex­plains. “We have a dish we nor­mally eat on Friday, and it’s steamed grains of semolina topped with vegetable broth and meat — and that is cous­cous. If you or­der cous­cous in Morocco — un­less you’re some­where re­ally touristy in Mar­rakesh — they’ll al­ways bring you the whole dish.”

This is just one of many snip­pets of in­for­ma­tion about Moroc­can food Benk­ab­bou is hop­ing to il­lu­mi­nate with her de­but cook­book, Casablanca — be­cause chances are, un­less you’re ac­tu­ally Moroc­can, you won’t re­ally know all that much about it.

“Peo­ple think it’s some­thing ex­otic or they think hum­mus is Moroc­can. They’re ex­cited about it, but they don’t cook it at home be­cause they think it’s very com­pli­cated, and it’s not,” says Benk­ab­bou, who was raised in Brus­sels be­fore mov­ing to the UK, and shared her recipes and food writ­ing through her blog, MyMoroc­canFood.com, be­fore pen­ning her book.

“My mis­sion is to bring Moroc­can flavours into peo­ple’s homes. My old­est mem­ory of my mum is com­ing home from school and her writ­ing down recipes in front of the TV, be­cause back then we didn’t have in­ter­net,”

It was Benk­ab­bou’s job to play as­sis­tant in the kitchen, peel­ing and chop­ping, and to be a fel­low flavour in­ter­roga­tor when they ate out.

“I would taste with her and she would ask me, ‘What do you think? Is it rose­mary? Is it thyme?’ Then we’d go home and try to re­pro­duce it.”

The trou­ble was her mum al­ways took the lead, “so when I started cook­ing on my own, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know this, I don’t know that’, there were gaps in my knowl­edge. I started call­ing my mum...”

Luck­ily, she had a very good palate, “and that’s how I started re­pro­duc­ing my mum’s recipes over the phone. I could tell if it was a suc­cess or not be­cause I knew ex­actly how it should taste in my mem­ory”.

Benk­ab­bou ad­mits with a smile that even now she still call her mum.

Al­though her food is in­formed by the dish-

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