Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ginger Rain

I had never been in the desert when it rains before. This was a first.
The dark clouds moved into the Palmeria in Marrakech, and I watched the palm trees fix their leaves firmly to the rights side of my window view. The ginger colored sand and dirt darkened in color as the rain fell. A hot date with a hammom, a pair of soft leather baboush to cover my cold toes, and a dinner of warm tangine never felt so good. The tangine is a traditional Marrakech dish made only by men- lamb or beef are cooked on the bone, in a clay vase buried in Hammom ashes. It's different than a well known tagine which has more of a steaming effect while cooked over an open fire.

My recent trip to Morocco was one with a familiar scent. Bits of India still lingering on my skin, words, and the yoga classes that I lead each morning on rooftops under African sun. The reconnection with Morocco and it's beautiful people was an easy one, like bumping into an old friend. And the organized chaos when stuck in a traffic jam out of the airport of trucks, bikes, camels and donkeys felt comforting and alive again.

"Moroccan woman have delicious hands" - Our beautiful chef, Bahija says as she tosses hot barley coucous with her bare hands. We season finger-fulls of appropriate spices into our slowly caramelizing onions and raisins which will top the 2 hour-steaming couscous. Bahija and Peggy pick up the finely ground powder and hold it at a slight angle above the onions. With a quick twitch of momentum in the wrist, the cumin, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric come raining down like a fine mist. Touching every exposed onion in sight. The steam sends up clouds of spice. The ginger burns your nose sightly as it rises back up.

3 weeks of warm Barley bread, rose scented aragon oil, 100 year old Moroccan rugs, spontaneous 3 day camel safaris, oranges dusted with cinnamon, goats in trees, and ginger rain in the dessert of north Africa.

Didn't think I would write these words so soon... but.... I am, yet again, boarding a plane tomorrow.
More soon..... x -A

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Red Tassels & Sweet Carrots

“Paradise runs under the feet of mothers” – An Arabic saying from the Koran

Morocco hosting the latest space for transformation, cultivation of new awareness, and a feast of the senses. Assisting this Culinary tour again, for the second time in the past 6 months. The Marrakech air blanketed me like a warm duvet as I departed my flight and walked along the familiar tar mat. Going from a beach hut with bucket showers in South India, to a 5 star Moroccan Riad in an oasis outside of Marrakech in just a matter of days. Jnane Tamsna has been a home to PM Culinary Adventures for the past 10 years. Saffron yellow walls dotted with traditional sacred-style of keyhole doorways, hand woven Berber rugs sached through hallways lined with tea lights, and sugar-like spring carrots laced with preserved lemons in my chicken tagine. A truly special place that authentically speaks the language of Morocco.

The traditional architecture of Morocco has lured such an intense curiosity in me, more than any other country. Dars and Riads are scattered throughout the tiny streets within the walls of the old city-The Medina. From the outside, Marrakesh life captivates you in it's controlled chaos in an instant. Parting the clouds of motorbike exhaust and aromatic street food smoke, as you wind through narrow streets framed by dusty blush colored walls. A Riad (translated as; Paradise Gardens) is a traditional Moorish house in Morocco. A home that is sectioned off into 4 interior gardens within the Riad walls, with rooms opening up to the center. Plants such as Hydrangea's and Plumerias are capable of growing within the security of Riad walls, and a fountain or water feature pierces the middle like a strategically placed sun dial. It's that Magical contrast of being in a whirlwind of chaos and then instantly in a serene Paradise Garden, that to me, is the enticing beauty of Morocco.

Preserved Lemons

5-6 small organic or meyer lemons
Sea Salt (about 3-4 T per lemon)

Cut the lemons from top to bottom in quarters, but not all the way through. Basically a cross, all the way down, but still attached. Stuff each quadrant with approximately 1 Tablespoon of Salt.
Put 5-6 lemons (however many will fit) into a glass jar and seal the jar tightly.
Leave lemons on the kitchen counter for 3 weeks. Turn them upside down, then right side up every day.
Can keep for up to 1 year in the pantry or refrigerator.
Avoid using metal to scoop the lemons out of the jar.

I must say though, that regardless of how easy it is to get lost with yourself in a place like Morocco, I am still being haunted by the "what's next??" part of my life. Closing the chapters of India, and soon on Morocco, I feel a weight in my chest of anticipation and unknown.... I fell upon this quote that I had tucked away from my India journey. Reading it's words over a cup of mint tea, I chose to let go yet again, an to succumb deeper and deeper into the spell cast upon me by the city of Marrakech...

"Be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer." -Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a young poet