Morroco Menu 2: Beef Keftas, Cilantro-Japapeno Hummus with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta

Yesterday's dinner was a real crowd pleaser. I really didn't have any concrete plans in my head.  I knew I had a whole lot of beef that needed to be used.  The rest just came together because of what I had - or rather what I didn't have -- in my refrigerator.  I was running low on vegetables and so had to fall back on the contents of my pantry and hence the hummus, roasted red pepper side dish!

I got the basic recipes for both the beef kefta and the hummus from Paula Wolfert, the Grand Dame of Meditteranean cooking and one of the best cookbook writers in my opinion.  I have read and re-read her introductory chapter in Coucous and Other Good Food from Morocco.  There is a wealth of invaluable information there.  She manages to tell you more about Moroccan cuisine in those first few pages than in many other books I have looked through. 

Beef Kefta Skewers (from Paul Wolfert Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco)

Makes about 15  large skewers
11/2 lbs ground beef (8% fat)
1 small onion
Handful parsley
Handful fresh cilantro
Small handful of spinach (because I am always trying to sneak in greens into my kids)
2 large pinches of mint
1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinches of ground allspice, cinnamon, ground ginger
Bamboo skewers

  • Soak bamboo skewers in water for atleast 30 minutes (prevents the stick from burning on the grill)
  • Put everything but the beef and skewers in a food processor and puree until smooth paste.  I added a dash of oil to make this a really smooth paste since my kids don't like "bits" in their meat!
  • Dump this paste into the ground beef and mix well until incorporated
  • Make sure to season the beef well with salt and pepper.  I used about 1 tbsp salt and 1tsp of pepper but you may need more or less. 
  • With wet hands, separate the meat mixture into equal sausage shapes.  I made about 15.  
  • Pack these around the bamboo skewers.  The trick to this is to keep your hands wet and to work quickly and rotate the skewers and you pack the sausage onto the stick.  
  • Grill rapidly on both side, approximately 5 minutes per side.  If you don't have a grill, then just broil these in a oven. 


Cilantro-Jalapeno Hummus with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta (significantly adapted from Paula Wolfert's Hummus recipe)

Makes about 4 cups; was completely wiped clean by this family of 4

2 cans of chickpeas
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup sesame seed paste
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, and more to taste
Big handful of fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
Salt to taste
Jar of roasted red peppers diced small
Crumbled feta cheese
Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Open two cans of chickpeas, reserve some of the chickpea liquid, then dump the rest in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. I always do this with the canned chickpeas to get rid of the slimy texture on the beans.  Slime not appreciated in this house.  Set aside for now.
  • In a food processor, puree the heck out of garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice.  Add the cilantro and the jalapeno and continue to puree.  Add a tablespoon of water water to the mixture if it is not a smooth paste. 
  • Now add the chickpeas to the garlic-sesame-cilantro-jalapeno mix and process until well-blended.  Note: the kids like their hummus smooth but I totally get the chunky hummus.  Just blend it to your desired consistency. 
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice.  I always add a bit and taste. 
  • Crumble some feta cheese in the middle of the platter
  • Open a jar of roasted red peppers and arrange some around the feta
  • Surround the peppers with the hummus
  • Drizzle the olive oil and a pinch of the zatar or paprika on the hummus
  • Serve with warm pita chips

THE VERDICT:  **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Parents:  When we lived in Istanbul, the office employed a chef and her name was Fatos. She would make us keftas for lunch every Friday afternoon.  The entire office would make sure to be there on that one day.  Heck, we even had people from neighboring offices pretend to be colleagues to get a taste of her keftas.  After eating dinner, Jim said that these got pretty close to Fatos' keftas -- which is a high compliment in my book!  The hummus was delicious for us parents but is did pack just a tiny tiny bit of heat which is why the boys stayed away from it.  The meat is pretty heavy by itself and so perhaps a light salad -- like the Cucumber Salad or the Orange Lettuce Salad in Paula Wolfert's Coucous and Other Good Food from Morocco - would have been a better accompaniment.

Kids:  Loved the beef kefta.  The fact that it was on a stick made it so cook.  Just lapped it up.  Ate the pita chips but mostly stayed away from the hummus, peppers and also the feta cheese.  


Morocco Menu 1: Tagine Bil Hoot with a Raw Carrot Salad

We kicked off Morocco last night by cooking Tagine Bil Hoot (a tagine of fish) with a Raw Carrot Salad. 

The boys loved the name of the fish and spend many a silly minutes yelling Tagine Bil Hoot all around the kitchen.  I overheard Ryan (8) asking Ben (5) "Why is this Tagine funny?".  "Because it's a Hoot".  And his little brother, very obligingly, laughed out loudly.   


Tagine Bil Hoot (adapted from Cooking at the Kasbah)

The fish recipe is from a lovely Moroccan cookbook called Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse.  I loved pouring over her lovely photos. She talks about her father, who was stationed in Morocco with the British Royal Airforce, falling in love with the country and staying on there.  In 1963, he bought a house there and called it Dar Zitoun (House of the Olive). What is amazing about the house is that in the mid-1800s, the wealthy businessman who owned the home actually started a cooking school there to train young women in the culinary arts.  How strange that when writing the cookbook, she tested most of her recipes in the same kitchen that would have housed the culinary school!   

Serves 4

1/4 cup flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

8 threads saffron

1 tsp ground ginger

2 small lemon

4 fish filets

1 can diced tomatoes

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp ground cumin

1 onion

12 green olives

Note: the original recipe also calls for 1 tbsp preserved lemon pulp to be spread over the fish filets but since I didn't have these, I omitted them. 

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Mix the chopped parsley, cilantro, olive oil, paprika, saffron and ginger. Add the juice of 1 small lemon to the parsley and cilantro mixture.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on the fish filets and then coat the fish filets with this mixture and refrigerate for 2 hours and turn occasionally
  • Cut the other lemon into thin slices and set aside
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add thinly slices onions and saute until soft and slightly golden.  Add the garlic and cook until you start to smell the yummy garlic 
  • Add a can of diced tomatoes and the ground cumin. Fill the empty tomato can with water and dump it in the mix.  Cook this until the sauce is nice and thick.
  • Take the pan off the heat, set the fish filets on top of the tomato and onion sauce.  Make sure you use any leftover marinade and just spread it over the fish. Then take the thin slices of lemon you cut up earlier and spread it over the filets of fish.
  • Sprinkle the olives all around the fish.  Note: I had to scrounge around for extra olives because I had eaten the 12 the recipe calls for.  
  • Put the pan in the oven and bake until the fish is nice and flaky.  In my convection oven it took about 15 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle with some fresh cilantro sprigs and voila -- ready to serve 


Moroccan Raw Salad (adapted from Olive Trees and Honey)

Given the fact that the Tagine was pretty adventurous for my boys (with so many new ingredients that I was introducing to them like olives, saffron, paprika), I stuck with a simple Raw Carrot Salad that I had bookmarked for ages.  This is from another fascinating cookbook that I have been meaning to buy called Olive Trees and Honey and is a compilation of vegetarian recipes from the Jewish diaspora.

Serves 4 (in our carrot lovin' house)

4 cups of carrots.  (I bought the pre-packaged shredded variety)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice + 2 tbsp orange juice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp ground cumin + 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1tsp sweet paprika

A pinch of sugar

  • Empty the shredded carrots into a bowl
  • Empty all the other ingredients into the bowl and mix well and let it marinade in the refrigerator.  

I made this at around noon and so it had a good 6 hours to soak up flavors.  This is the key to this extremely simple recipe!

THE VERDICT:  *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Parents:  The fish was really moist and flaky.  You can really taste saffron in the dish and it is such a unique addition.  Perhaps add a bit more lemon the next time or perhaps invest in the preserved lemons the original recipe calls for. The olives add quite a bit of substance and salt to the dish.  We were craving some good crusty bread to scoop up the yummy bits of tomato, onions and garlic and so this is something to think about if we do this again. 

Kids: Ate all the fish but left a lot of their olives on the plate untouched.  Not the best fish they have eaten, they said.  They LOVED the carrot salad and asked if I could make it again, which is always a really good sign!