Hanging in our kitchen is a calendar which was a gift from our friend DJ Ozz. It has become something of an annual tradition for The DJ to commit one of our group trips to calendar form for posterity and by way of a Christmas present to each of us.
For the past month, our friend Mata’s beaming face has been looking out over us with the deep blue Marrakech sky behind her. I turned the calendar over to October this morning, a little late I know, to see an image of Mata standing in the Souk and it jolted me straight back to the sounds and smells (also mainly being horribly lost) in the old Medina.
Home alone as Rocket is away again, I started forming a plan for my lunch dish and for something I could also pack away as a healthy lunch to take to work – I am facing a hellish two weeks now and already have a feeling of dread… a nice lunch to look forward to might compensate?
London has been enjoying an Indian Summer or in my case, a ‘Moroccan Autumn’ so flavourings would be along those lines, with plenty of citrus using up some tangerines and limes. The bitter sweet notes of pomegranate and the fragrant and irony greenness from coriander and parsley would be included (if you closed your eyes and tried them for the first time you would know they were green wouldn’t you?.
The earthy notes could come from puy lentils, with warmth of harissa, cumin, a little cayenne, and a slightly sticky sweetness would be achieved not with dried fruit but with some segments and the juice of the tangerines. The whole thing would form the sort of salad that is both satisfying and exotic and best eaten either at room temperature or slightly warm…
In my desire to eat healthily (having been very very bad) the protein packed lentils, a little olive oil, plenty of vitamin packed herbs, a flourish of fresh salad veg and all the iodine richness of some simple seafood – that must be ok musn’t it? Back to the tale…
There was an evening on our expedition spent in our beautiful Riyadh – having sated our appetites around the city all day. A hiatus behind the thick cool walls shielding us from the frenetic, exotic Medina…..we lounged around in the courtyard, under the clear night sky listening to mellow music and re-charging our batteries ahead of new adventures. Taking turns to request various tracks of our resident DJ, the one I remember and which forever evokes that sultry night is this one, listen along while you read on?
For the lentils:
1 pack of pre-cooked puy lentils ( or a cup of dried lentils boiled in water or stock for about 45 minutes.
1/2 medium red onion, very finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced.
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 dessert spoons olive oil
A little salt and black pepper
For the seafood:
1 pack of frozen but defrosted mixed seafood – comme ca
3 heaped tsp harissa paste
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground cumin
1 dessert spoon olive oil
For the veg element:
3 inches of cucumber, very finely diced
½ red onion, very finely diced
1 tomato, seeds removed and very finely diced
1 few strands of mild red chilli pepper, seeds removed
1 tangerine, peeled and segmented.
The seeds from ½ a pomegranate.
Juice of a lemon or lime
Juice of a whole tangerine/ clementine or similar.
A little salt and pepper
A few salted flaked almonds to garnish
A little salt and black pepper
- Soften half the red onion and the garlic in a dessert spoon of olive oil, sweating them for a few minutes until translucent.
- Add the lentils to the pan and turn them over in the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes.
- Allow the lentils to cool for a bout 5/10 minutes before adding a good glug of olive oil, the seasoning and the juice of ½ a lemon or lime and the juice of a tangerine. Stir through and the lentils and set them aside.
- While the lentils are cooling, add some olive to a pan over a low heat, add the cumin seeds and dried spices, turn them over in the oil then add the harissa and cook out the mixture until it forms an oily paste.
- Next add the seafood to the pan and turn it over in the oily mixture allowing it to absorb the flavours for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and add the juice of ½ a lemon or lime and a little salt, and set aside.
- To a bowl, add the cucumber, tomato, red onion, coriander and a little salt, mix well.
- Take a large serving bowl and combine the lentils, seafood and most of the chopped salad mixture then scatter the tangerine segments, pomegranate seeds and almonds over the salad before adding a final scattering of the chopped salad.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and consume. Please do comment!