Friday, July 15, 2011

Moroccan mezze for mum

I love being back home in India on vacation. It's always a treat to be surrounded by my family, made even more special by the appearance of all of my favorite foods at every mealtime! So to return the favor to my mum, who loves mezze, I cooked up this spread from Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

Of late, I'm drawn to cookbooks that go beyond mere recipes, those that offer a glimpse into worlds I've not traveled to yet. The Washington Post calls this book "A wonderful journey for love and loaves", and I can't think of a better way to describe it. The husband-and-wife team of Alford and Duguid have traveled extensively across Europe, North Africa, Asia and North America chronicling people's lives through their daily bread. It's one of those books from which picking a recipe is really hard, since they all sound amazing. Fenugreek Corn Bread or Georgian Cheese-filled Breads, anyone? Finally, I chose this set of dishes since all of the ingredients are readily available here in India. The bread, scented with anise seed, is called ksra. We ate it with bessara, a kidney bean dip; harissa, the popular North African chile paste; and a herbed carrot salad. Only dessert was a departure from this region: I can't get enough of Indian mangoes while I'm here!

The mezze meal was perfect for the hot Madras weather, since everything is eaten at room temperature, except for the bread which I pulled out fresh from the oven. The different flavors and textures come together into a harmonious whole: crusty-soft bread, tangy-velvety bean puree, sweet and fresh-tasting carrots and spicy-hot harissa. I'm thinking this would be a great summer brunch as well, with the addition of some shakshuka, that wonderful Tunisian dish of stewed tomatoes and poached eggs. Now on to the next region...