Archive for November, 2012

Thursday saw the return of the eagerly anticipated El Capote evening of food and wine matching.  Before anyone gets upset that I didn’t tell them about it – I had been invited along by Ian at the last minute, it was a small gathering of us and once again it did not disappoint.

This time around the menu was Japanese/Mediterranean fusion menu.

Normally, fusion cuisine is cuisine that combines elements of different culinary traditions.  This was perhaps not so much fusion cuisine as a fusion concept.

The food which was delicious, was the type of cuisine served by El Capote but presented in alternative ways, aiming to represent Japanese cuisine.

Fresh Calamari California Roll served with caramelised onions

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This is now the second time that I have eaten fresh calamari at El Capote on these foodie evenings and I have to say (I may have said it the last time too)

that with a product this good, the less you do to it the better.

And Ian knows how to get the best out of his product.  A quick flash fry on the hot plate and served with caramelised onions.

Showing a level of innovation in the kitchen, the Calamares were rolled into the shape of California Rolls and filled with sticky, plummy, jammy, caramelised onions. The idea being that the Calamares’ white flesh represented the rice and the caramelised onions the salmon/tuna in the roll itself. Sadly, and you could see Ian’s enthusiasm for this dish deflate, as the Calamares did not retain their round shape.  As on the flesh touching the heat of the hotplate, it just opened out spilling its onion insides. But this dish was sublime. Served with a fruity Sauvignon Blanc to echo the sweetness of the dish.

Noodles a la Gallega

This was a winning dish!  Galicia’s signature dish served as if taken out of a Japanese cookbook.  The octopus served in thin strips with thin chips (fried in oil!) and mixed with the characteristic pimienton of Pulpo a la Gallega.

Each diner was presented with their own individual nest of chips and octopus to savour.  As the idea was that the strips of potato and octopus were meant to represent noodles, I would have attempted to serve the dish in little bowls to try and recreate the noodle experience.  But having said this, ‘noodles’ a la Gallega was a flavoursome dish that was brilliantly accompanied by a Penfold Shiraz.  The complexity of spices in the Shiraz enhancing the pimienton in the dish.  I could have easily eaten another of these nests washed down with more of the Penfold.

Tuna pan amb oli (pa amb oli)

Roughly translated as bread with olive oil it can also have tomato sauce.  This is traditionally a peasant dish of bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil and topped with tomatoes and seasoning.  Usually served as an appetiser or tapa, this can also be a great breakfast (my Friday breakfast of choice).  However, Ian served this over tuna steaks – gorgeous!

The bread, garlic and olive oil fried/oven toasted added texture and crunch to the otherwise delicate tuna and tomato.  Served rare (some pieces needed to be even more rare) but with thin tuna steaks this is a hard one to time when cooking on a large scale.  My solution was thicker steaks.

The only part of the combination which tasted/sounded Japanese, was the wine “Hito.”  Served slightly chilled, this red was subtle and carried the flavours in the tuna pan amb oli without necessarily taking over the dish.  Hito, is a new young wine of the Emilio Moro, Cepa21 range.  I have tried this wine before and thoroughly enjoyed it, however, several people at the table were put off by the idea of a chilled red.  What are your thoughts on this?

Fillet Steak Sashimi

This beautiful thinly sliced blue beef was exquisite.  Seared on the outside, each slice of beef boasted a quiveringly rare centre encased in a charred crust.  Reminiscent of a beef carpaccio but slightly thicker and with more texture and depth of flavour.  Served with roasted red peppers and fried Jamon de Bellota crumbled on top.  The roasted red peppers adding a sweet jous and the fried jamon providing a necessary seasoning to the meat; under-seasoned meat is vile.

The Septima Malbec was a good choice of wine to accompany this dish – it stood up to it but let the fillet and its jamon-seasoning do the talking.

We ended the evening with a Reserve Chedder Cheese and blue cheese with crackers and a Special Ruby Port.  Neither Mediterranean nor Japanese but a worthy ending to the evening.  Especially as the port kept coming!!

Sitting in the heart of the Medina sipping a mint tea and smelling the scents of the souk, I reminisce over the food memories created during my mini break in Marrakech.

On my first night in Marrakech, I was tantalised by a beef and prune tagine.  Tagine is the quintessential Moroccan dish.  Tagine refers to the succulent dish which is slow-cooked inside the cooking apparatus.  It can be cooked with a variety of ingredients, typically, a tagine is a rich stew of meat, chicken, or fish and most often includes vegetables or fruit.  Vegetables can also be cooked alone.

Tagine refers more to the wide, circular, shallow earthenware container with a distinctively shaped rounded dome or cone that the dish is cooked in rather than the name of the dish.

The Tagine is a humble dish.  As the dish is slow cooked cheaper cuts of meat can be used, maximising on flavour without needing prime cuts of fillet steak to enhance the dish.

The beef and prune tagine; juicy and flavoursome, rich and sweet.  The beef was flaking off the fork and at the same time gelatinous in consistency.  Beautiful.

 Another gorgeous Tagine was the Tagine du Poullet (Chicken Tagine) I had whilst overlooking the Djemaa El-Fna Square with its myriad of alleyways.

No the photo has not been oversaturated, the saffron content of the dish must have been set to psycadellic levels!

Another Moroccan delicacy is couscous.  These baby grains of semolina are sweet but very bland making them a great vehicle to carry bold flavours.  At a restaurant overlooking the Djemaa for 10MAD we ate a Starter: Moroccan Salad, Main: tagine/couscous & Dessert: Oranges.

                   

Unfortunately we were in a rush and the pace of the service at this restaurant was also quintessentially Moroccan!  We had to forgo the oranges.  Priscilla and Henry would be appalled at our total lack of respect but as you can see from the couscous both the need for speed and greed meant that I started attacking the plate before I remembered to take a photo of it!

WARNING: Moroccan food is delicious, yes, but very rich and sweet.  At some point you are going to need a break from all this tagine malarky.  There are two great restaurants outside the Medina in the Ville Nouvelle, La Rue Yougoslavie; Azar and Le Chat Qui Rit (both recommended by Lonely Planet Guides) are a break from all this.

Azar, is a Lebanese restaurant that serves amazing food – I recommend going for one of their Mezzes to share and a bottle of wine.  We tried the Local Vin Gris (Grey wine) which was a great accompaniment to the mezze.

Le Chat Qui Rit is an Italian restaurant – I recommend you share a starter and pick any main off the menu as they were delicious but whatever you do you MUST leave room for dessert.  Pick the Profiteroles!  Choux Pastry wrapped around a huge ball of vanilla ice cream covered in the most decadent chocolate sauce and topped with toasted almonds!  Sorry, no photo, greed, once again is my excuse!

Pack your bags, get yourself over there, have a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice on the Djemaa, walk around and eat at the different stalls, establishments and restaurants.  Smell it all in, savour each bite from the slow-cooked tagine to the street food brochettes (pinchitos) then wash it all down with a glass of hot, sweet mint tea.  Marrakech, a crazy city full of mystique, culture but above all, food.

C’est bon – Bon Appetite!