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Few desires, happy life

My husband and I, not because we want to, live apart for much of the time.  Our collective desire is to be together.  That would be our happy life.  When we are together we cook.  When we are apart, we often cook separately what we have cooked together.  It makes us feel closer in some way.  In Grenoble recently we went back to a favourite little Moroccan restaurant. There is a large North African and Arab community in the city and it is one of the things we love about the place.  This is not the grandest, nor the most expensive but it is family run and in the simple surroundings which appear not to have changed in decades you will get a fantastic meal served with grace and style by one of the children and not break the bank.  If I could remember it’s name I would share it ….

We had this dish as a starter not for the first time and back home in Cantal decided to try and replicate it.  Since then we have made it together and we have made it apart.  The restaurant has the edge, of course but I would urge you to give it a go because it is rather luscious.

 Zaalouk:

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Peel an aubergine (eggplant) and dice it, put into a pan with sufficient water to immerse (initially it’s light and spongy texture will cause it to float) and a teaspoon of salt.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer until really soft.  Then drain in a collander and let all the water release.  Meanwhile, chop around 3 ripe tomatoes (if your tomatoes are dull and flavourless please use tinned – life is too short to willingly eat uninspiring tomatoes) and crush as much garlic as you dare – I use a fat clove for each tomato.  When the aubergine is well drained (feel free to give it a good squish to this end) sautee the garlic and tomatoes in a glug of olive oil with around a teaspoon of crushed cumin seed, twice that of crushed coriander seed and a half teaspoon of paprika (smoked or not depending on your own preference).  I add a pinch of sugar too – I find it makes tomatoes more tomatoey for some mysterious reason.  When the tomatoes are well cooked down stir in the aubergine pulp.  Let it cook for about 10 minutes and then fork it, mash it or even blend it (I blend with my trusty stick blender because I prefer the silken texture it gives).  Taste and add salt (mine is black and volcanic from Hawaii but that is not at all necessary – it honestly happens to be what I have in the house and is not any kind of arty condiment affectation) and more crushed coriander seed.  You can finish with chopped fresh coriander (cillantro) and it will be all the better for it but it is hard to find here in my coin perdu and I can’t seem to get it to grow successfully – a matter of huge frustration which borders on the obsessional.  Last of all drizzle with more olive oil.

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This can be eaten hot or cold – we favour just above warm with bread – here in bread heaven we have a ridiculous choice of course, in North Africa I imagine it would be eaten with pitta and, as an aside, I have dipped crunchy raw veggies in it too and it is good and feels rather virtuous.

As a point of interest – the aubergine was once called mala insane (the apple of madness) and it is a member of the nightshade family.  Though not deadly, it does contain toxins which will upset a sturdy tummy when turning from flower to fruit.  You have been warned.

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PS:  The title is a Moroccan proverb of which I am very fond

46 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have been to Morocco many times as I had friends who lived there, if I am honest I never really liked the food that was prepared locally but always enjoyed eating the homes made food with all of the spices and the like so am very fond of this food.
    I will maybe prepare something Moroccan myself for one of my tasty Tuesday, not before I attempt to make this lovely looking dish, although for me served hot with a pitta for sure…

    Like

    October 5, 2015
    • My eldest has spent time in Tunisia and Morocco, my third just in Morocco. I love North African food but have never actually been there so maybe I would not like it in situ – I intend to try sometime. We are spoiled for bread here and can buy pitta but not at the boulangerie and being a teeny bit snobbish I tend not to buy bread in supermarkets here – why would I, let’s be frank! I hope you will try it – you can regulate the oil which makes it adaptable to most diets and I look forward to whatever you give us on Tasty Tuesday … I’m rather addicted!

      Liked by 1 person

      October 6, 2015
      • Well, what can I say to that but I will definitely try it at the weekend.
        To be honest, it looks very similar to a dish they serve in the cafe’s at breakfast time, I may be wrong but it is so similar it’s uncanny!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 6, 2015
      • Oh it’s a very popular North African salad so I imagine it is the same … give it a whirl and let me know what you think 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        October 6, 2015
      • On it like sonic!!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 6, 2015
  2. I do take aubergines as one of the few desires 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    October 5, 2015
    • They are a minor obsession. Of mine 😉

      Like

      October 5, 2015
  3. Aubergines are right up there with chick peas……I can’t grow coriander here wither – every thing else on my window box grows literally like wild mint, but it droops and dies whatever I do….
    Dip looks fab

    Liked by 1 person

    October 5, 2015
    • Ooh I am 100% with you on the chickpeas too …. Love them! What IS it with coriander in France …. Quite bizarre – everything else grows beautifully and I SO miss it 😦

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      October 5, 2015
  4. Not the same I know, but I have found coriander leaves at &S which are better than the dried variety for flavour

    Liked by 1 person

    October 5, 2015
    • Ooh, thank you I’ll check it out!

      Like

      October 5, 2015
  5. This sounds very lovely! yumm, I love the story at the beginning, love, God bless you both!! heart was melting!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 5, 2015
    • I’m more about the story than the recipe in the end Lyn … glad you liked it and thank you for taking time out to comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      October 5, 2015
  6. Arby #

    I recently had Zaalouk with my best friend, an amazing girl – the girl of my dreams. Thank you for sharing your story – loved it, just like the Zaalouk.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 6, 2015
    • A dream is a wish your heart makes, Arby – I wish you many more happy meals with your girl 🙂

      Like

      October 6, 2015
  7. Great story, great recipe – will definitely try it when we are back from our trip. Best wishes 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    October 6, 2015
    • Glad you liked it, Andrew and it is certainly worth making – very Moorish and very more-ish!

      Like

      October 6, 2015
  8. gastronomic coincidence: yesterday I prepared “une purée d’aubergines” for lunch… the Romanian way: I peeled 2 eggplants, cut them in 2, put them in a bowl with some watre(one horizontal finger!), covered them and had them cooked in the microwave for 10-12’… left in a passoire for 30′, then chopped them into a purée… mixed with olive oil, a bit of salt & pepper and a chopped green onion… served with a tomato salad and feta goat cheese… total yummy, comme d’hab’! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    October 6, 2015
    • That sounds delicious! I must give it a go …. it is always interesting trying different cultural cuisines and I have to admit I know nothing at all about Romanian cooking!

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      October 6, 2015
  9. I love eggplants…and this sounds yummy….and as the sugar in with the tomatoes…I was part of the Italians for many years of my life. Married into a family…and I worked at a prep cook in more than one Italian rest. they always added sugar to there big pots of tomato sauces…the chefs like you said the same thing…bring outs the taste of the tomatoes. And another trick of the trade if you ever burn any sauce try adding sugar in small increments as it takes away the burn flavor…I was at work one Friday and the chef had made a huge pot of white clam chowder for dinner, he got busy and forgot he didn’t turn it off and it scorched really bad…first we bucketed it into a clean pot not to disturb the scorched part on the bottom, I thought it was a goner for sure, it tasted past burnt…he started adding sugar a little at a time and low and behold it took every bit of that burnt flavor out…I would of never known he scorched the hell our of it…of course I was sworn to secrecy over it…I would of never believed it….just thought I would pass it on…thanks for the yummy recipe….kat

    Liked by 1 person

    October 6, 2015
    • Kat that is alchemy for sure and I will try it for sure – my girls will tell you that I can burn as much as I can bake! Do try the recipe – its really delicious and you can control the amount of oil you put in unlike when you fry an eggplant and they just guzzle it up. I hope you enjoy it and thank you so much again for that tip – glad you were once part of the Mafia 😉

      Like

      October 6, 2015
      • Laughing aside, they were at my wedding….LOL they had there own table in the corner and the were the only ones that had an ice bucket for the champagne so it would be left at the table…got a beautiful piece of crystal from them however….LOL that was a long time ago….I grill my eggplant on the bbq with out oil and then use it in salads and sometimes just have it hot with tomatoes…yum..

        Liked by 1 person

        October 6, 2015
      • You Americans are so much cleverer with BBQs that I am … never mastered the thing. Anyway – you could certainly do this with the eggplant grilled and I imagine it might be even better!!! Love the story of the Italians 🙂

        Like

        October 6, 2015
      • they do have a grill pan to put on the stove top, but you need a gas burner and a good exhaust fan…lol it works great…I also do it in a real hot oven….

        Liked by 1 person

        October 6, 2015
      • I have an induction hob …. Wonderful but no good for that. Hot oven would work though! I used to have a gas range with a griddle you put on the burners. I miss that girl!

        Like

        October 7, 2015
      • I have 2, I lost my first one in the back of the deep cupboards and I bought a second one…LOL then got a hair up my arse and cleaned all the cupboards out…and I love it….

        Liked by 1 person

        October 7, 2015
      • I love that expression – a hair up my arse! Hilarious to my English ears!!!

        Like

        October 7, 2015
  10. CaroleBristol #

    I must give this a try. I love North African food.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 7, 2015
    • I hope you do – it’s really delicious. I share your love of North African food 🙂 Thank you for dropping buy and taking the time to comment by the way!

      Liked by 1 person

      October 7, 2015
  11. Just made it.
    Eating as I type.
    Very nice.
    Toms a bit low on flavour so next time pinned me thinks but very happy with the outcome and almost zero cals apart from the mini wholegrain pitta..!

    Liked by 1 person

    October 7, 2015
    • So glad you have made it …. I’m spoiled for flavorful toms here but in winter I will certainly revert to tinned. Bon appetit!

      Like

      October 7, 2015
      • Oh it was good. I have NEVER eaten Aubergine before and have to say am happy to do so again!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 7, 2015
      • I love Aubergine as a substitute for meat in some sense. It’s amazing with as a dahl with chickpeas too and of course absolutely essential in a ratatouille . I’ll leave you to experiment and look forward to Cooking with Cam – food for the light side of life 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        October 7, 2015
      • Cooking with Cam. It has a certain ring to it. I see it starting with me writing my shopping list, wandering around Waitress aimlessly as I hunt for the ingredients then returning home to cook. In fact, just as I did today, a beef and potato soup and some Piri Piri chicken along with some preparation for my Chilli which will slow cook tomorrow…..
        Come on BBC, how can you resist that kind of programming!!

        Like

        October 7, 2015
      • Utterly irresistible and would make you a natural choice as the face of Waitrose too – if Jamie can, so can you 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        October 8, 2015
      • We will have to get on to that then won’t we!!

        Liked by 1 person

        October 8, 2015
  12. As lunchtime approaches my mouth is watering. I will definitely try this.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 8, 2015
    • Oh good! Do report back on the results 🙂

      Like

      October 8, 2015
  13. And I, too, now love that proverb. And “apple of madness” is a marvelous, descriptive phrase for an eggplant. Although “aubergine” dances on my tongue.

    Liked by 1 person

    October 10, 2015
    • Aubergine is a beautiful word, better than eggplant I think but I am probably biased. The Apple of Madness made me smile because I am rather obsessed with them, as it happens!

      Like

      October 10, 2015
      • If I had a child, I’ve decided I’d name her/him Aubergine. Not to worry – I’m 66.
        I’ll use it in one of my future stories.

        Like

        October 10, 2015
  14. Cooking together, alone, the apple of madness. You have myth-makings here.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 17, 2016
    • Making one’s own myths is part of the fun of life, I think.

      Like

      January 18, 2016
  15. Arby #

    I just made some Zaalouk – thank you, it tastes really good. I made it for my best friend, who will be with me Friday.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 14, 2016

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