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Flavours of Morocco

If you make this Moroccan lentil soup a few days ahead the flavours will develop.

My friend Roslyn Hodgkins served me a spiced Moroccan red lentil soup on a recent visit to Nowra. It was the inspiration for this recipe, although mine is not as spicy as hers. She served the soup with yoghurt and Turkish bread. This recipe is in memory of her son, Daniel, 34, who always enjoyed his food. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago after a brave battle with leukaemia from the age of two.

The lentil soup is a handy store cupboard recipe. Try to make it a day ahead to allow time for the flavours to develop and meld. You can make it as spicy as you like. You may prefer to use ras el hanout, the North African spice mix instead of the individual spices in the recipe.

Moroccan red lentil soup with quick semolina bread.
Moroccan red lentil soup with quick semolina bread. Photo: Colleen Petch

The quick semolina bread is lovely to serve with the soup. I also like to have it for breakfast with honey. The delicious orange, cos lettuce and walnut salad makes a refreshing contrast to the spicy soup. The recipe is based on one from Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.

Serves 6

Orange, cos lettuce and walnut salad.
Orange, cos lettuce and walnut salad. Photo: Colleen Petch

1 cup (200g) red lentils

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

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1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 carrot, grated or finely chopped

1 x 400g can of tomatoes including juice, chopped

2 bay leaves

1-2 tsp sugar or honey

5 cups water

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp lemon juice or 2 tsp wine vinegar to taste

1 bunch coriander and/or flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Spice mix - ras el hanout

1 tsp each of ground coriander and sweet paprika

½ tsp each ground cumin, cinnamon and turmeric

¼ tsp each ground ginger, nutmeg and black pepper

pinch of chilli flakes or cayenne pepper to taste

Check through the lentils and remove any debris, then wash them thoroughly and drain. Heat the oil in a saucepan with the onion and garlic and fry gently for 10 minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste and spices and cook for a minute. Then add the lentils, carrot, tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar or honey and to begin with four cups of water. Bring to the boil and simmer, partly covered for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. When the lentils are tender add salt and lemon juice or vinegar to taste and cook for a minute. At serving time, reheat the soup and stir in the chopped coriander and/or parsley. Serve with semolina bread, otherwise with Turkish or French bread.

QUICK SEMOLINA BREAD

60g butter, melted and cooled

1 cup fine semolina flour

1 cup plain flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tbsp (4 tsp) baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp aniseed (optional)

1 cup buttermilk or low-fat yoghurt

1 free-range egg

½ cup water as needed

1 free-range egg and splash of milk for egg wash

sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

Grease and line a 22.5-centimetre round cake tin. Set the oven at 180C fan, or 200C regular.

Sift the flours and baking powder into a bowl and add the sugar, salt and aniseed (if using). In another bowl lightly beat the buttermilk or yoghurt with the egg and melted butter and half the water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently combine adding more water as needed. Be careful not to over-mix. Tip into the prepared tin. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Serve the bread cut into slices with the soup, or as a yummy snack with butter and honey.

You can add sliced dates to the salad and, if you like, use almonds instead of walnuts.

ORANGE, COS LETTUCE AND WALNUT SALAD

1 baby cos lettuce, washed

a handful of coriander and/or mint sprigs

2 navel or other oranges

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp sugar or to taste

pinch salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp orange blossom water

1 handful walnuts, toasted and chopped

Using a serrated knife cut the peel and pith off the oranges. Work over a plate to collect the juice. Cut the oranges in half downwards and then into slices (half-moons).

For the dressing, mix together the saved orange juice (about one tablespoon), lemon juice, sugar, salt, cinnamon and orange blossom water. Taste and add more sugar if needed. This will depend on how sweet or tart the fruit is, but the dressing should be quite sweet.

Cut the lettuce into shreds and mix with the herb sprigs in the serving dish. Pour the dressing over the greens and toss. Arrange the orange slices on top and scatter the walnuts over the salad. Serve chilled at the beginning of the meal.

Diana Lampe is a Canberra writer, dlampe@bigpond.net.au

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