recent adventure to the Moroccan Atlas Mountains can only (and easily) be described as the time of my life and the best birthday I’ve ever experienced. A timelessly long relaxing weekend perched secludedly on the crumbly edge of the Atlas Mountains in the Ourika Valley in the heart of the National Park. Nestled high above the local Berber village I felt more than privileged to be there and in wonderful company. Basking in the golden sun, trekking through the local valley, wholeheartedly absorbing the culture and contagiously relaxing in the peaceful vibe of the Kasbah Bab Ourika. How many bedrooms can you watch the sun rise while gazing at snow caped mountains before enjoying a humble breakfast on a warm terracotta terrace? Kasbah Bab Ourika really is a special place. Saturated in charm, authenticity and the smell of fire and leather. And mint tea…lots of mint tea.
On arrival we were welcomed by the local Berber staff by the hydrating delights of said fresh mint tea. With only 26 rooms and more staff than guests, not once did we feel the infringing presence of the other holiday makers. We wondered the lavender filled gardens, bathed by the pool and drank tea until the sun went down. Or at least until an acceptable time arrived to sip on a cocktail or two.
The view from our bedroom balcony was breath taking. An inspiring place to cleanse the soul so what better way to start my birthday than a yoga practice and some ‘sun’ salutations at sunrise.
My birthday ticked casually by starting with a stimulating 12km trek through the undulating local National Park, an indulgent foodie buffet lunch served in the sun washed terrace before unwinding with a Moroccan massage in the lavender filled gardens.
Only then did the heavens open and cool the hot parched ground. Naturally we retired to the leather filled bar with a crisp class of bubbly by a soothing fire in our dinner finery.
The peace and tranquility was broken only momentarily by a crazy and amazing venture into Marakesh! What a place. The flavours and familiar smells of the ingredients I have accustomed myself to using were 100 times stronger and more intense in this vibrant city making my reluctant return to the English supermarkets even more disappointing. The mint seemed fresher and the spices seemed stronger. Inspiration for my favourite cuisine could not be ignored on return home. Cucumber martinis to cool us down before tackling the vibrant market as the sun went down
After having commitedly devoured the tender delights of tagine every night I felt an alternative recipe in order. Taking inspiration from the African bliss I enjoyed this weekends meal. Clean, fresh, flavoursome and delicious. Moroccan spiced chicken with green herby bulghar wheat and sharp lime yoghurt.
- 60g bulgar wheat
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 25g currants, soaked in boiling water/orange juice for 20 minutes
- 50g pistachios, chopped
- Large handful each of dill, parsley, basil and mint
- 1 lemon
- 2 chicken supremes/chicken breasts
- 2 heaped tsp Ras el Hanout
- Rapeseed oil
- 50g yoghurt
- 1 large lime
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Marinade your chicken in the Ras El Hanout, salt and pepper and a few tbsp’s of rapeseed oil in a large bowl for at least 30 minutes.
- When ready to cook, heat a frying pan over a high heat and drizzle with some more oil. Sear the chicken on the skin side to get a really crispy and golden skin for up to 5 minutes. Once crisp, turn and seal on the flesh side for 1 minute. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until tender and cooked. Leave to rest for 5 minutes and keep warm.
- Meanwhile make the bulgar wheat salad. Simmer the wheat in boiling water (about 5 x as much water as wheat) for about 10 minutes or so or until tender and soft. Drain well and fluff with a fork. Keep warm in the pan with a lid on.
- Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion until soft and translucent. Add the ground cumin for the final few minutes to cook out. Add these to the warm wheat.
- Combine the green herbs in a food processor (or finely chop). Add seasoning, the juice from the lemon and a little oil to loosen if needed. Scrap the herby mixture into the bulgar wheat and stir well.
- Check the seasoning of the wheat before adding the currants (drained) and the chopped nuts.
- Combine the yoghurt with the lime juice and some salt and pepper.
- When the chicken is cooked and rested, slice in half on the diagonal.
- Spoon a ring of yoghurt onto your serving plate and fill the centre with a generous helping of green bulgar wheat salad. Top with the sliced chicken and scatter over any remaining herbs.