Review: Nomad, Marrakech Morocco

Walking through Marrakesh in search for a meal can be particularly difficult as a traveller who stands out as being quite physically different. Getting accosted by restaurant managers on all sides who try to convince you to enter their restaurant for yet another overly expensive and under-flavoured chicken tajine or cous cous is one of the downsides of being a tourist in Marrakech.

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There are however, nice restaurants and cafes that employ less heavy-handed techniques to attract diners – clever branding, location, atmosphere, and innovative menus for example. Nomad is one of these cafes, a very cool hipster cafe with a fantastic rooftop terrace overlooking the markets, waiters who spoke impeccable English, French, Arabic and Berber, and a menu offering modern interpretations of traditional cuisine – and more than just tajines as well! The stair to the terrace are a little bit hidden as Nomad doesn’t have any space on the ground floor, so make sure to look them up on Google Maps before heading out!

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We were lucky enough to have a private table on the terrace, separate from all the diners. It’s a cosy little table for two under an awning in one of the few nooks, facing out to the markets and Marrakech Medina rooftops for a great view. If you want to enjoy a quiet relaxing meal without other tourists right next to you, this is the table.

Mixed seasonal fruit juice, 25 Dirham, 1 Litre Sparkling Water, 25 Dirham
Mixed seasonal fruit juice, 25 Dirham, 1 Litre Sparkling Water, 25 Dirham

Enjoying some unseasonably warm weather in Marrakech, we started by sharing a summery mixed fresh fruit juice. Strawberries are very much in season in Marrakech in February, so this was a blend of strawberry, orange and apple – lovely, refreshing and quite sweet.

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You get the Moroccan khobz bread served with every meal. Nomad’s khobz was particularly tasty with a light semolina dusting outside and a nice hard and chewy crust.

Shaved cauliflower and fennel salad with fresh herbs and toasted almonds, 60 Dirham
Shaved cauliflower and fennel salad with fresh herbs and toasted almonds, 60 Dirham

This Shaved Cauliflower and Fennel Salad may be the dish that finally makes me fall in love with cauliflower as a vegetable. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always eaten cauliflower, whether in stir fries or bakes. I’ve even used it as a rice substitute in fried cauliflower rice. However, this is the dish that’s made me fall in love with raw crunchy cauliflower in a salad – lightly dressed with a herb dressing and flavoured with spicy rocket and sweet strawberries, it’s a deceptively simple but delicious salad. This is definitely one to try making at home!

Courgette and feta fritters served with a minted yoghurt sauce, 80 Dirham
Courgette and feta fritters served with a minted yoghurt sauce, 80 Dirham

We share the Courgette and Feta Fritters as well – quite soft and not quite as crispy on the outside as I would like. However the mint yoghurt sauce definitely manages to lift the whole dish – it’s refreshing and adds an extra zing to the fritters. It’s simply so delicious that I end up dipping my khobz bread into it afterwards to make the most of the dip!

Chicken Tagine with preserved lemon and green olives served with buttery cous cous and harissa and chermoula sauces, 100 Dirham
Chicken Tajine with preserved lemon and green olives served with buttery cous cous and harissa and chermoula sauces, 100 Dirham

We ordered one main to share – the Chicken Tajine. I know I spoke disparagingly about tajines earlier in this entry, but this is the dish that proves to be the exception. While it’s a tajine dish, it’s not actually served in a tajine. Instead, the chicken is plated up with a delicious little cup of buttery herbed cous cous, as well as an incredibly hot harissa and a fragrant chermoula on the side. The chicken itself is fall-apart amazing, with a tenderness that was unmatched by any of the other many chicken tajines we had during our stay in Marrakech – and the sauce was unparalleled as well. I’d go as far as to say that this is one of the best chicken tajines in the whole city!

Amlou (almond, argan oil and honey) ice-cream and smooth spiced chocolate sorbet, 40 Dirham
Amlou (almond, argan oil and honey) ice-cream and smooth spiced chocolate sorbet, 40 Dirham

Nomad advertise their artisan ice-creams, so we order some scoops to try for dessert – an Amlou ice-cream and a Smooth Spiced Chocolate Sorbet. The Amlou ice-cream is quite nutty, a great blend of both almond and argan nut sweetened subtly by some local honey. The spiced chocolate sorbet is the clear winner though, with an initial rich dark chocolate flavour that’s slowly taken over by a long-lasting subtle chilli burn.

Flourless orange cake with caramelised orange zest and whipped cream, 60 Dirham
Flourless orange cake with caramelised orange zest and whipped cream, 60 Dirham

Just for good measure, we order one more dessert – a Flourless Orange Cake. The cake is very almondy – the almond flour used in place of wheat flour is very evident here. This isn’t a downside though, as it ends up working very well with the whipped cream on the side as a lovely moist orange cake.

Nomad is the type of classy cafe where you can be assured of a modern Moroccan meal, free of hassling waiters and sub-par tajines. Instead, you’re guaranteed a lovely relaxing meal in a great location – and if you don’t want to have a meal, you can just sit back and relax with some drinks as well! They’re very relaxed in that way. They are a little pricier than your average street-side Moroccan restaurant, but it’s worth the extra expense for a better experience. Nomad is a must-visit when you’re in Marrakech!

Nomad is located at 1 Derb Aarjan in Marrakech Medina, Morocco.

Review: B’Stilla, South Yarra

There have been times when I wished I had an older sibling. An older brother perhaps, with friends who I could have crushes on from afar. An older sister, who could teach me how to apply makeup properly so I wouldn’t look like a clown the way I did through my early teens. Yet, I wouldn’t trade the responsibility of being a (much) older sister for anything. The ten years between my brother and I has often meant that my role in his life blurred the line between being a sister or a mother.

In the early years, I was very much a mother – changing diapers, attending parent-teacher interviews, doing after-school pick-ups. As the years pass though and he becomes an adult himself, I’m enjoying our new relationship where I’m more of an older sister with authority – someone who can tell him off for being lazy and not looking for a part-time job, and someone who can broaden his knowledge of the world by introducing him to new life and culinary experiences.

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On my recent visit to Melbourne, I took him to B’Stilla – a Moroccan restaurant in South Yarra that’s been receiving rave reviews. It was just us on this early dinner date, as my father was still overseas. We arrived for a very early dinner reservation at 5.30pm, and were one of only three parties dining at that time. It didn’t take long for the restaurant to fill up though, with all tables full by the time we left an hour and a half later.

Apple, cucumber, mint and soda mocktail ($8) and a Pineapple, mint, blood orange, and bitters ($8)
Apple, cucumber, mint and soda mocktail ($8) and a Pineapple, mint, blood orange, and bitters ($8)

Having never been to B’Stilla before, our waitress explained the menu to us, and suggested dishes of a few different sizes to create the perfect dinner for two. But first, we started with a mocktail each – my apple and cucumber was deliciously refreshing with a minty twist, and his pineapple and bitters was quite thick and fruity.

Lamb ribs, dukkah, date and lime ($17)
Lamb ribs, dukkah, date and lime ($17)

Our first ‘small plate’ ordered was the Lamb Ribs – frenched, marinated, spiced and grilled before being seasoned with dukkah. With a squeeze of lime juice over them, they were simply delectable – super flavourful, a little bit spicy and tangy and tender. I only wish there was more than two ribs each!

Duck and chicken pie, almond, cinnamon and saffron ($16)
Duck and chicken pie, almond, cinnamon and saffron ($16)

The B’Stilla Duck and Chicken Pie was something entirely new to me as well as my brother – neither of us had ever tried this before! It’s essentially a filo pie, but with a twist – while the contents of the pie are savoury, the exterior of it is sweet, with a generous topping of icing sugar and some caramelisation to the filo in the baking process. It’s a strange concept, but it works. It helps that I find duck quite a sweet meat to begin with, especially when cooked with almonds and cinnamon as it is here.

Merguez - barbecued duck sausage syrian lentil stew, pomegranate ($12)
Merguez – barbecued duck sausage syrian lentil stew, pomegranate ($12)

I ordered the Merguez after seeing it make an appearance on the table next to ours. Each element on its own is unremarkable, but once you put it all together, it’s quite stupendous. The slightly tangy burst of fresh flavour from the pomegranate seeds helps to cut through the earthiness of both the sausage and the lentils. Quite unusual, but it works well.

Root vegetable tagine, chickpeas, cumin yoghurt, pumpkin seed ($28)
Root vegetable tagine, chickpeas, cumin yoghurt, pumpkin seed ($28)

I loved the Root Vegetable Tagine with its thick creamy tomato based sauce which was set off to perfection by the spiced yoghurt.The dish ran the risk of potentially becoming too texturally bland, but the softness of the vegetables and creaminess of the sauce was offset with the fresh crunchy pepitas scattered on top. Rich, comfort food, perfect for winter in Melbourne.

Moroccan slaw, almond, apricot, chilli dressing ($10)
Moroccan slaw, almond, apricot, chilli dressing ($10)

For a quick dose of vegetables, we also ordered the Moroccan slaw – crunchy and well-dressed with the occasional sweet hits with each sliver of dried apricot. Truth be told, it was really the apricot that made the slaw a great dish – without it, it would have been like any other side salad, healthy but not very exciting.

Hot amlou pudding, preserved orange, argan syrup ($12)
Hot amlou pudding, preserved orange, argan syrup ($12)

We finished our meal with dessert to share, the Hot amlou pudding as suggested by our waitress. It’s essentially a honey and almond pudding with preserved orange peel and sweet syrup drizzled on top. Simply remarkable, especially with the boozy cream that it rested on. Doing a bit of research, it seems as though ‘amlou’ is a honey and almond paste that’s usually readily available for purchase in Moroccan supermarkets…I look forward to finding and buying some to eat at home because it was just that delicious!

Overall, my brother and I really enjoyed our visit to B’Stilla, and we talked about potentially returning with my father for a visit when I’m next in Melbourne. It’s the type of place that he could really enjoy, and though Moroccan-style food would be new to him, I think he would really enjoy it. I’ll certainly be back!

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Recipe: Moroccan Lamb Shanks

I made a large range of dishes for K’s 30th birthday dinner – one of them being Scotch Eggs which I featured on this blog not too long ago. Another dish I made was Moroccan-style Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks. I recently replicated this meal while I was in Melbourne for my father, and he loved it even though he doesn’t normally enjoy eating lamb. It’s super duper easy, and while it does need to cook for a few hours, the time you actually have to spend in the kitchen prepping and cooking is minimal.

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Recipe: Moroccan Style Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

Ingredients

  • Six lamb shanks*
  • Two red onions
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of Moroccan spice mix
  • 2 birdseye chillies
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • 300gm of baby spinach leaves

*The fresher the lamb, the more tender it will be when you cook it. I suggest buying your lamb directly from a reputable butcher, rather than via a supermarket.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees.
  2. Quickly brown your lamb shanks in an oiled pan. Once browned, place them in a large oven-proof dish with a lid.
  3. Dice up your onions, garlic and chillis. Fry them up in the oiled pan until soft, then add the spice mix and the crushed tomatoes and beef stock.
  4. Once the mix is hot and bubbling, pour it over the lamb into the dish, cover it with the lid and place it into the pre-heated oven for approximately an hour and three quarters.
  5. Rinse the chickpeas and add them to the dish, stirring it in so that it’s covered by the tomato sauce mix. Replace the lid and leave it in the oven to cook until the lamb is tender and almost falling off the bone.
  6. Once the lamb is cooked, remove the dish from the oven and stir through the baby spinach, adding it in gradually as the residual heat wilts and cooks the leaves.
  7. Season with salt and pepper as necessary, then serve with some pumpkin and cous cous, and enjoy!

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