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At the end of 2012 we were given the delicious keys to a gastronomic kingdom by maestro chef and all round nice guy, Tom Ryalls.
Tom was a senior chef at London’s Moro restaurant. In the atmospheric and golden setting of a traditional village at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas in Andalusia, he taught us, and a few other foodie/walking fans, how to prepare a selection of exotic looking and tasting Moro dishes.
For those whose have yet to discover this culinary gold mine, Moro is a vivacious blend of North African and Spanish cuisine with flavours that swirl around your mouth like a flamenco dancer stomping her feet to a Gnawa beat.
In other words, it’s terrific nosh.
As well as being enthusiast eaters, we love getting our hands floury. Cooking has always been a therapeutic pastime.
Since Tom shared his secrets in Las Alpujarras we’ve regularly dipped in and out of the Moro well.
Last night we stuck on Amy Winehouse, poured a generous glass of wine and rustled up a couple of our favourite Moro recipes – beetroot borani and walnut and red pepper bulgur (in our case couscous) with soft and floppy flatbreads sprinkled with za’atar (a blend of Middle Eastern spices that raises the game of anything it’s sprinkled on).
Moro cooking isn’t for anyone who likes to be in and out of the kitchen with their dinner before the commercial break is over. It’s slow cooking.
Beetroot takes an hour and a half of bubbling away whilst a red pepper chars and blisters slowly on a cast iron griddle. The cast iron griddle is a magical pan. Anything cooked on it just tastes better.
Roasted red pepper is a revelation. Alone it adds pizazz to couscous; accompanied by smoky paprika, mint, parsley and harissa it takes you by the tongue and drags you at breakneck speed through a Moroccan spice market.
Walnuts are cracked, pieces of nut ricocheting around the kitchen, herbs are chopped and feta crumbled whilst Amy sings about her F-me pumps.
After the pepper is blackened, the flatbreads take their turn on the griddle whilst the beetroot is turned into a thick paste courtesy of a hand blender whose enthusiasm to do the job sends beetroot splatters around the kitchen, leaving it looking like Freddy Krueger’s paid a visit.
It takes time but the kitchen is filled with a rainbow army of ingredients and aromas swirling with Eastern promise.
And then it’s done. And it’s eaten in a fraction of the time it took to prepare.
That’s how it is. The journey to get to the destination is part of what it’s all about.
Saying that, such are the flavours in Moro dishes, one teaspoon of beetroot borani or walnut and red pepper couscous would more than justify hours of preparation.
Jack is co-owner, 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+