Ever since I wandered the souk, I became intoxicated with the visual feast and the amazing aromas that are unique to North African and Middle Eastern cooking. The array of unusual ingredients, from twisted roots to bark and vibrant coloured powders, buying secret mixes of spices, sold in little paper cones, that made the experimenting back home truly authentic. The perfume of rose and orange blossom isn't to everyone's taste but we usually have at least one or two dishes on the menu that reflect the Arab influence of this region.

Ma'amoul pastries


These delicious stuffed pastries are sold yearlong in the Moroccan market but are a specialty at Easter.

250g white flour, 120g unsalted butter (softened), 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 4 tablespoons orange flower water,

Combine all the ingredients until they just hold together, work to form a soft dough. Divide the dough into small balls about 2 cm in diameter, hollow out the center of each ball with your thumb to form a pot-like shape. Fill with the following almond paste. 150g freshly ground almonds combined with 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon orange flower water. Close each ball, pinching the dough together at the top and pressing down slightly. Bake in a low oven (160 degrees C) for 20 minutes. They should remain very pale and will feel soft after cooking but will harden on cooling. When cool dust with icing sugar. These go well with strong coffee.

dried fruits with rose water

Marinated dried fruits with rosewater

2 large apples, 1 large lemon, 150g dried organic apricots, 150g dried organic prunes (stoneless), 70g dried organic sultanas, 70g dried organic cranberries, 100g caster sugar, 100ml organic rosewater, 1 cinnamon stick, 20g flaked almonds,

Soak all the dried fruits(separately) for 20 minutes in hot boiled water. Peel and dice the apples, put in a pan. Juice the lemon and add to the pan with 2 tablespoons sugar. Put on low heat, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Turn out into a large bowl and cover immediately. Drain the dried fruits. Slice the apricots and prunes. Carefully mix in with the apple. Put the rosewater, cinnamon and remaining sugar into a pan over low heat, cook for 1 minute to form a light syrup. Pour over the fruits. Store in a container with a lid and leave to marinate. These fruits improve over time and can last for weeks refrigerated. Serve them sprinkled with flaked almonds.

orange almond cake

Fragrant orange almond cakes

6 eggs, 250g ground almonds, 150g plain flour, 250g sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, zest and juice from 1 orange, 1 dessert spoon orange flower water.

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Separate the eggs, whisk the whites until stiff, add the sugar slowly and continue whisking until glossy. Combine the almonds, yolks, zest, juice, flower water and baking powder. Mix the two parts together, spoon into small paper or silicone baking cases, bake for around 10 minutes until lightly golden (expect them to rise and then shrink a little).

b'stilla pastilla

B'stilla (pastilla)

2 chicken breasts (minced), 1 medium onion, 3 cloves garlic, 100g ground almonds, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 large bunch coriander, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 6 sheets brik or filo pastry, 50g unsalted butter (melted), 1 egg yolk, salt and pepper, icing sugar and cinnamon to dust.

Peel and finely chop the onion, garlic and coriander. Sauté gently in olive oil until translucent, add the chicken and spices, cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Uncover(cook off any excess liquid as you need a fairly dry mix), stir in the almonds and divide into six balls. Lay out the sheets of brik or filo on a lightly damp tea towel (to prevent drying out). Brush each sheet with melted butter, place a ball of paste in each, flatten slightly, wrap up the sides, folding the pastry over to form parcels. (These can be any shape, triangular, cigar, square). Brush with egg yolk and bake in a hot oven for 5 minutes or until golden. Delicious hot or cold.

potato lime tomato spice

Bombay potatoes with lime, garlic and tomatoes

This dish makes a tasty, economical meal on its own. The addition of the ‘al dente’ garlic and peppers to the soft potato and tomato mix are as important as the combination and addition of lime and salt. 6 medium sized potatoes, 2 green peppers, 2 red onions, 4 medium vine tomatoes, 3 limes, 8 cloves garlic, 2 teaspoons ground coriander spice, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh coriander leaves, extra virgin olive oil,

Peel the potatoes, cut into 1 cm cubes and cook in boiling water for 2 minutes or until just done. Strain, immediately plunge into cold water, pat dry. Finely slice the onion. De-seed the peppers and finely slice. Finely chop the garlic. Zest the limes in fine strips and juice. Finely dice the tomatoes (retain the juices). In a large heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil. Add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes but do not brown. Stir in the cooked potatoes. Turn up the heat and rapidly stir in the tomatoes (with juice), peppers, garlic and lime zest. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes soften and the potatoes start to lose their shape. Add the spices and lime juice, season well and turn out into a serving dish, garnish generously with coriander leaves.

papaya avocado salad

Salad of papaya, avocado, ginger and lime

1/2 papaya, 1 avocado (ripe), 2 spring onions tops, 2 cm fresh ginger root, 1/2 orange, 1 lime, 1 teaspoon fine grain mustard, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil,

For the dressing, peel and finely grate the ginger, zest and juice the orange. Juice the lime and mix all three thoroughly with the mustard and olive oil. Remove the skin and seeds from the papaya, scoop out round shapes (you can use a baller tool) or cut out chunks. Remove the skin and pip from the avocado and shape the flesh in the same way as the papaya. Place in the serving bowl, drizzle with the dressing. Trim the spring onion tops (the green parts have a milder ‘grassy’ flavour) slice long and fine, add to the salad. Serve immediately. .

geranium panna cotta

Geranium panna cotta with raspberries

A variation on the Italian classic - the geranium infuses a perfume that pairs perfectly with the slight tartness of ripe raspberries. 250ml full cream milk, 250ml double cream, 150g caster sugar, 10 rose geranium leaves, 10g gelatin powder, 100g fresh raspberries, 4-6 small moulds

Put the milk and geranium leaves into a medium pan and place on a low heat, bring to a simmer, remove from heat and leave to infuse for about 15 minutes. Remove the leaves, add the cream and whisk in the sugar. Bring back to simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatin. Pour into individual moulds (here we have used round - bottomed expresso cups). Leave to cool, cover and refrigerate for two hours. Turn out using a small palette knife. You can help this by placing the mould in very hot water for a few seconds. Serve with fresh raspberries.

mango sorbet tart

Mango and cardamom sorbet

2 very ripe mangos, Juice from 1 lemon, 1 cup white sugar, Juice from 3 oranges, 100ml Spanish cava or gin 1 dessert spoon lightly crushed cardamom pods Remove the mango skins and trim flesh from around the pip. Collect all the juices. Put flesh and juices into a blender, add the lemon juice and liquidize. Put the sugar, crushed cardamom and orange juice in a small pan. Place on a low heat to dissolve, it can come to simmer but do not boil. Leave to infuse for 15 minutes then strain, mashing the flavour out of the pods as you go. Add this syrup to the pulp and fast blend until very smooth, add the alcohol. Transfer to a container, cover and put into the freezer. After 3 hours, take the sorbet out of the freezer - it should be partially frozen. Blend rapidly and quickly pour back into the container and straight back into the freezer to set for 24 hours. The sorbet is shown here with a fresh mango tart.