Ramadan in Morocco, food for thought

Four or five ripe tomatoes, one large white sweet onion, a couple of potatoes. Not a recipe, but the ingredients and contents of each clear plastic bag suspended from every passing moped and ancient bicycle. It’s the holy season of Ramadan, in Marrakech, June 2016. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a full month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad, according to Islamic belief.

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I am aware of this, but particularly because during the early hours we are snapped awake, bolt upright in our comfortable luxurious Riad in the centre of the Medina, as Call to Prayer begins its stereophonic blast of wailing, rhythmic prayer. It’s all encompassing, heightened by the heat, the sweet waft of the night-scented plants on the patio outside the window, and the location.

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Those aforementioned ingredients, idly noticed as I sit alone, sweating under the gentle spray of a water-mist in a café, recovering from the Souk-haggling, the street madness, and the Tanneries (don’t do it!). Stan has disappeared in search of some drawing material, and I am served water by a courteous man, no doubt dry with thirst himself – no water shall be taken during fasting hours – that one thing as essential as SPF to us in this dry 43° heat. It puts my Sober October effort of last year well and truly in the shade.

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Far from a few simple ingredients, those suspended bags hold  the promise of a setting yellow sun, an evening with family, the return of good humour and Jemaa el fna square buzzing with laughter and life. The little bag that holds a hint of the end of 16 hours of fasting, but first the mosque for prayers, then the party starts…

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Old Mother Hubbard’s pasta

I’ve looked, and looked, there’s nothing there…

Not a fairy tale, but the reality of the plaintive cry from the nearly 18 yr old son with no brain.  Honestly, that’s a bit harsh, but just a bit.

There’s always something in my cupboards, after nearly 7 years on my Alpujarras mountain I have learned to keep basics in, to remember that the M&S food hall is not 5 mins walk away like it used to be, and to regret that the take away will not deliver 1114 metres up the mountain.

But, it has made me a better cook, and I throw away nada. Ever.  I can make a bolognaise into a lasagne, or a chilli, and even carry on with empanadas if there’s anything left.  Stews and casseroles morph into pies, mash becomes fishcakes, stuffing gets rolled up in pastry with any cooked meat to make a sausage roll with a difference.

There’s usually a plated up meal or two in the freezer, but the pop-it-y-ping (microwave to you) went bang over Christmas and I can’t afford to replace it just yet…

So, lesson 1 and 2 for can’t cook- won’t cook son.

Fishy pasta

Boil the pasta – doh.

Sauté garlic, onions, halved cherry tomatoes, add a splash of the undrinkable vino from the butcher – don’t ask, it’s a long story –  I only sent Isobel for firelighters.

Add tomato frito, mixed herbs, salt and pepper, a few black olives to be pushed to the side of the plate, a tin of tuna, or those tasty mackerel fillets that sound like horse or onion or something in Spanish – stir it together. Grate over Parmesan.  Eat.

Ask your mum to put the plate into the dishwasher.

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Bacon creamy pasta.

Boil the pasta.  Sauté the onion and garlic again, add bacon bits, lardons or a few rashers of bacon snipped into small pieces.

Add a little frito, a tub of cooking cream – nata para cocinar – herbs, black pepper, no salt as the bacon is salty enough.  Stir the pasta through the hot sauce and serve.

Repeat the steps with the mother and the dishwasher.