If I was being totally honest I would have to say that we were disappointed with much of the food that we ate when we visited Morocco, and Marrakech in particular. There was nothing wrong with the food, it just didn’t seduce us as much as some other world cuisines. Menus in restaurants often lacked variety and the dishes didn’t have the scintillating range of flavours we hoped for from a destination whose souks are populated by stalls displaying mountain ranges of wildly colourful, exotic spices. We expected Morocco’s cuisine to transport us to the incense filled interior of lavishly decorated tents where risqué flavours performed a danse du ventre on our tongues. The dancer simply didn’t perform.
Part of the blame for our disappointment lies at the door of a dish that has been warming our bellies and delighting our ‘buds for a couple of decades; Spicy Moroccan Potato & Tomato Stew. This is a killer of a dish. Its combination of spices mixed with the humble potato performs such an addictive belly dance on the tongue that once enjoyed you have to come back for more. Being a one-pot wonder, it is also ridiculously easy to make. You don’t need to be somewhere exotic to cook it up; it has kept us warm and happy in a water-logged camp-site near Builth Wells in the past.
An added bonus is that even if you’re one of those people who think vegetarian dishes are for people with twitchy noses and buck teeth, this will make you think again. This dish, and others like it, is what we expected to find in Morocco.
Ingredients for Spicy Moroccan Potato & Tomato Stew for Two People
- 700g potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch sized chunks
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 hot red chilli, chopped
- 1 tbsp of Ras el hanout (Ras el hanout is a wonderful Middle Eastern mix of spices that we are addicted to. If you can’t get hold of any use turmeric.)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 500 ml water (Or just enough to cover the ingredients.)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt (Don’t be afraid of adding salt, potato dishes can take a lot, but don’t overdo it. You can always add more after dishing.)
Preparing Spicy Moroccan Potato & Tomato Stew
Preparation Time: 15 minutes: Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and add the onions when the oil is hot. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until they’re translucent but not brown.
- Add potatoes, tomatoes, salt and all the spices. Mix thoroughly until the potatoes, are covered with a coating of spices the colour of the red city itself.
- Add the cilantro and stir in, then add just enough water to barely cover the potatoes.
- Turn the heat to high and bring to the boil.
- When the stew starts bubbling, cover the pan, turn the heat to low for 30 minutes and go and do whatever takes your fancy whilst the stew’s heady aromas dance around the room.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid and stir the mixture, breaking down a couple of the potatoes to thicken it. This is the only bit where you need to take care. Break down too many potatoes and the mix will be too thick (not a disaster) and too few and it will be a bit watery (again not a disaster).
Scoop into bowls and garnish with a couple of cilantro leaves. We usually eat Spicy Moroccan Potato & Tomato Stew with a couple of home-made flatbreads. If you’ve got the consistency right, these are perfect for scooping it up. Fresh, crusty bread is also good, especially if the stew is on the runny side.
Warning: The potatoes really retain the heat with this dish; make sure they’ve cooled down before popping some into the mouth otherwise it’ll be a ‘OW’ rather than a ‘WOW’ moment.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+