Moroccan/Italian Honey Sesame Curls

Southern Italy and North Africa, not so distant cousins.

I adore dishes which bear testament to shared histories and the exchange of tradition, the type which are so strikingly alike that they surpass borders between two seemingly different lands. With the Arab conquests of Sicily and Calabria, the presence of the Spanish with their Moorish influence until the 18th century and the natural proximity of land, its no wonder we can find huge similarities in food, language and architecture between the regions. The occasion pastries of Southern Italy and North Africa demonstrate just this with the common use of of floral essences, spice, ground almonds, pistachios and honey. In Italy at Christmas we see deep fried honeyed dough steeped in honey (like fragrant Neapoletan Struffoli and Puglian Cartellate), and around Ramadan we find Moroccan Chebakia in abundance; rose shaped, spiced pastries also deep fried and steeped in honey. The trick is to use a light honey, such as Rowse Light & Mild, so the flavour of the spices aren’t overcome. 

My recipe is a take on the afore mentioned dishes, on the methods and depth of flavour shared by both regions who it seems are not so far apart. These spiced honey and sesame curls are best accompanied by a strong, unsweetened Turkish style tea; since we’re already in the Mediterranean flavour mood, why not! 


Zayane – A Breath of Fresh Atlas Air

I knew I would adore Zayane as soon as I caught wind of it. With Moroccan fusion food, warm hospitality, authentic music and right on my West London doorstep, the venue became a personal favourite as soon as I stepped foot inside. I’ve previously shared the draw of Golborne Road with its diasporic values and English eccentricity, recently opened Zayane seems like a perfect fit.
Zayane, so called after Tamazight speaking nomadic tribes of the Atlas Mountains, was born from a clear vision; refined Moroccan cuisine in a relaxed, unpretentious setting. Casablanca born owner Meryem has created not only a beautiful venue but an amazing atmosphere; her grandmother’s traditional Berber style dress hangs proudly on display and zellige inspired bronze lanterns add a warm glow to the white washed walls. The air is delicately scented with cinnamon and the seating is sociable and intimate with wooden carved partitions and flashes of burnished orange and turquoise. A Gnawa musician sings without a sense of urgency on weeknights, welcoming diners with the type of raw edged infectiously happy voice unique to southern Morocco and a DJ drops beats on the weekends.

With former Thackeray’s Michelin starred chef Chris Bower at the helm, the menus are well thought out and offer alluring dishes for all tastes. Chris masterfully creates a unique Moroccan–British fusion, using British seasonal ingredients and a genuine knowledge of authentic Moroccan spices used with a delicate hand. There are elements of highly refined cuisine here yet elements of utmost authenticity too. Think cured sea bass with a preserved lemon sauce or milk fed lamb mechoui with aubergine caponata. Think also of traditional wholemeal flatbreads which are sold on every street corner in Morocco…

Read on.. Full review & pics here!

Simple and Moorish – Farinata / Karantita

This frugal dish is authentic in its simplicity and makes for a substantial, economic and tasty meal.

Out of all the dishes to come from the Mediterranean,  I adore those which exemplify the movement and oneness of its people. Although made by many hands, essentially this dish remains baked chickpea flour batter, embellished with localised flavours.

Named Farinata di Ceci in Liguria, it is also known as Karantita / Karane / Kalinti in North Africa and Calentita in Gibraltar. It is also a testament to my second favorite saying ‘Una Faccia, Una Pancia‘ – One Face, One Belly!

I like to eat this dish when still warm, either topped with a light salad (think healthy pizza!) or with Harissa paste in a sandwich. Any spicy pepper or tomato sauce such as Luteniza or Aivar will do equally as well!

Click here for easy recipe…

Una Faccia, Una Razza!

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It’s a saying which shaped the foundations of NazarBlue and a philosophy in which I have always believed; One face, one race.

Wherever I am in the Med I’m overcome with the same emotions: a sense of nostalgia invoked by musical laments, a sense of exhilaration from pulsating cities, and insatiable hunger spurred on by tempting street food. The air is thick and perfumed with pine resin, the crickets rasp in arid shrubbery and socialising is almost always centered around good food and wine. A plate of fried Calamari on the seafront is a must, cats with huge begging eyes lurk under taverna tables and swipe at falling scraps. Siesta time ceases with the whirrs of moped engines. People converse on lantern lit terraces with waving hands and raised voices. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in Italy, Greece or Istanbul, the scenes are always the same.

‘One Face, One Race’ is a saying which acknowledges the similarities between Italians and Greeks. In fact, I believe it can be said for any of the Mediterranean’s people who have been both unified and separated by slithers of sea. With the shifting of borders as empires advanced then retreated, cultures intermingled and languages, music and food were shared.

Some may patriotically claim Baklava, Turkish Coffee, and Falafel to be theirs, but in disregarding language barriers we can see a common knowledge and mutual love.                                   Ouzo, Raki, Arak and Sambuca may go by different names but essentially it is a liquor made with anise, consumed in the same way. Shakshuka to the North Africans is as Uova in Purgatorito to the Italians. Meze, Mezzeh, Tapas and Antipasti are a way of life, essientoal to the sociable ways of eating. Pizza as we know it hails from Napoli, yet what influenced this iconic food? Well, how about Greek Pitta bread or Turkish Pide – flat breads with various toppings. Then there is Manoush from the Eastern Med. Could the most famous dish from the chaotic port city have its origins further East?

Even the most frugal of dishes add a sense of pattern to the Med’s colourful mosaic. Farinata di Ceci, wet dough made from seasoned chickpea flour and baked with plenty of olive oil, is particular to Liguria. However Karantita from Algeria and Calentita from Gibraltar are both of uncanny similarity.

It’s rainbow season in London: The blustery winds are relentless and storms seem to roll pass often, appeased once in a while by brilliant bursts of sun. Last Saturday as I took shelter in my flat I sorted through my DVD collection and decided to watch Mediterraneo, a hilarious Italian film about a group of soldiers who are sent to a Greek Island during WWII. They find themselves stranded when after becoming intoxicated with Opium supplied by a Turkish fisherman, they come too, discovering their arms and transport have been stolen. The Italians soon forget their duties and ease into Island life, accidentally missing the fact the war ended some three years before.

‘Una Faccia, Una Pancia!’ one soldier says mocking the hefty appetite that Greeks and Italians share. One face, one belly! It’s not only appearance which unifies the Mediterraneans, it’s their mutual love of food too.

Here’s a more in-depth explanation of Una Faccia, Una Razza, written by my lovely sister.

Pizzica in Mayfair, W1

One blustery Autumn evening in the back streets of Mayfair I heard the beat of a tambourine dancing on the air. When I near La Masseria I see people spilling out onto the streets, chattering like sparrows at dusk… Read on…

Portobello & Golborne Road – West Sometimes IS Best.

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As a West Londoner I don’t have to travel far for a fiery culture fix.

Read about Portobello and Golborne Road, West London’s eccentric and worldly hot-spot here