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IN A JIFFY: The scents of North Africa


Bringing North African flavours to your dining table is easy.

Items like couscous, which were once considered obscure, are now regularly found in most grocery stores. Even truly exotic spices such as saffron and sumac can often be found in the spice aisle (Atlantic Superstore/Dominion often carry them as part of the PC Black Label brand.)

In this week’s In a Jiffy video, Chef Greg Burns of GIO in Halifax creates a dish blending North African flavours and local carrots. While the dish, featuring Moroccan chermoula sauce, uses a number of spices it is exceptionally easy to make. Discover how easy it is to make the sauce in my latest In a Jiffy video, along with some pairing tips.

The North Africa dinner table is colourful with tagine pots that are traditionally used to cook roast meats. 123RF STOCK PHOTO
The North Africa dinner table is colourful with tagine pots that are traditionally used to cook roast meats. 123RF STOCK PHOTO

 


Four easy ways to bring North Africa to your table

Moroccan Chermoula

Chef Greg Burns of GIO in Halifax describes Moroccan Chermoula as like a North Africa version of chimichurri. I agree, as it not only adds a punch of flavour, its vibrant green colour will make almost anything look tasty and delicious.

GIO Chef Greg Burns uses Moroccan chermoula sauce to add flavour to local produce such as carrots. Julia Webb photo - SaltWire Network
GIO Chef Greg Burns uses Moroccan chermoula sauce to add flavour to local produce such as carrots. Julia Webb photo - SaltWire Network

 

Makes 2 cups

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for 1 minute until soft. Add the garlic and dry spices and sauté for 30 seconds. In a bowl combine the chopped parsley, salt, and lemon juice and zest. Add the toasted shallots, garlic and spices to the bowl and mix.


Couscous

Couscous is enjoyed throughout the Magreb (Northwestern Africa). Made from semolina wheat flour, this grain-based dish is often served on Fridays but can be part of any meal. It’s also one of the simplest and quickest side dishes you can make. Bring 1 cup of stock to a boil. Add 1 cup of couscous, a sprinkle of lemon zest, a handful of raisins and a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat. Cover the pot and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and finish with some freshly chopped mint. It’s instant flavour. Other flavours you can try includes almonds, raisins and saffron. Couscous makes for a great vegetarian meal or serve as a side to your favourite seafood.

Couscous is a staple of the North African diet. Photo: 123RF STOCK PHOTO
Couscous is a staple of the North African diet. Photo: 123RF STOCK PHOTO

 

4 Servings

  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup couscous
  • ½ lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • Pinch salt
  • Fresh mint

Directions: Bring stock to a boil. Add couscous, lemon zest, raisins and a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat. Cover the pot and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and finish with some freshly chopped mint.


Egyptian Za’taar

Za’atar is a traditional spice mix used in the Middle East and Egypt to season fish, meat, and vegetables. I like using it to season roast chicken or turkey.

Raw organic Middle Eastern Zaatar spices. CONTRIBUTED
Raw organic Middle Eastern Zaatar spices. CONTRIBUTED

 

Makes 3/4 cup

  • 3 tbsp each dried thyme, cumin, coriander seeds, toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp chile flakes

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Transfer to a sealed container.


Tunisian Harissa

Harissa is a red chile-based paste that is a must condiment for a North African inspired dinner party. It can be used to season fish, poultry, and meat or simply, added to couscous or simply served as a condiment to accompany a meal.

Harissa is a spicy condiment used to flavour a wide spectrum of dishes. Photo: 123RF STOCK PHOTO
Harissa is a spicy condiment used to flavour a wide spectrum of dishes. Photo: 123RF STOCK PHOTO

 

  • 4 red peppers
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 small red chilies, seeds removed, diced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Preheat an oven to 450°F. Place red peppers on a baking sheet. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and place in paper bag. Allow to cool. Remove skins from peppers, deseed and chop. Place roasted pepper, ground cumin, coriander, paprika and red chiles in a blender. Add olive oil, garlic, mint leaves and honey. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.


Mark DeWolf is a connoisseur of all things food and drink. He's a creative director with SaltWire and local fare is his specialty. You can subscribe to his Follow a Foodie newsletter here.

Watch Mark whip up seasonal plates in his video series, In a Jiffy, and go deeper with food trends and kitchen challenges weekly.

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