Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Maghreb Mania 1: Claudia's sharpen-you-up carrot dip

No, this post is not about a newly discovered disease affecting tourists in North Africa, but my own craving for all things Moroccan. Although I've never been there, if the food is anything to go by, I know we'll get along very well.

Moroccan is one of the first Middle Eastern cuisines I came across, and I've been in love with the bright colours and vibrant tastes ever since.

The Maghreb, in English, is a broad area of North Africa that generally includes Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, but in the Arabic-script languages, it refers specifically to Morocco. So there you go.

While I am not totally certain, the cumin-lemon juice-ginger spicing of this embarrassingly easy dip hints at a sunny Moroccan (or thereabouts) origin. It is from Claudia's A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, a tasty tome that I come back to again and again, and not just for the abundance of fabulous recipes.

Whenever I find a promising new recipe of Middle Eastern bent, I always run it past Claudia first. Often enough, she will have written about it and all its regional variations in either A New Book or The Book of Jewish Food, or both! This time, a recipe I saw featured at Cuisine recalled this one from A New Book.

Claudia advises making the dip with old carrots, which she says taste better. If you have chilli-averse tongues at your table, I advise not putting in the harissa (a very hot chilli and garlic paste you can buy in tubes) and allowing guests to smear some on their own portions if they like. Either way, this flame coloured dip will certainly sharpen you up!

Boiled carrot dip

500 g (2 large) carrots, peeled
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp harissa or 1 tsp paprika and a good pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 tsp cumin
3 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4-1/2 tsp ginger

Boil the carrots in salted water until very tender. Drain and blitz with the other ingredients in a food processor.

Alternative additional flavourings are 2 tbsp honey and 1 tsp cinnamon.


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