What is fusion cuisine? This term is thrown about on food/travel shows often but hardly ever explained. As its name implies, it is the combination of cooking styles from different cultures to make something new. From Spain With Love has delved into this topic before in Preserves: Keeping The Flavor Alive. There we saw Japanese sushi methods being applied to Spanish ingredients. This episode’s main focus was Moroccan Mediterranean. This is prepared with traditional Arab world techniques and Moroccan spices but favourite Spanish ingredients like citrus and pork. Annie Sibonney led us on a journey to explore Granada and understand its delicious Moroccan inspired cuisine. At señor Mustafá Bougrine’s restaurant, Riad Albayzin in the old Arab quarter (), the stunning decor foreshadowed a stunning meal. They met Najia in the kitchen, who was already busy with couscous preparation. Moroccan cuisine is all about spices: knowledge and proper use of the varieties can make or break any meal. Our presenter was very well acquainted and able to explain the ones in use. The first dish was Lamb and Vegetable Couscous.
She deftly lent Najia a hand at separating the raw couscous before the many spices and ingredients went into the pot. Of interesting note was the couscousiere that rested atop the cooking pot. Some recipes require that couscous is cooked by boiling in broth, but this is the traditional method where steam is used. I was impressed by Najia’s ability to plate the vegetables straight from the pot, with her bare hands. The next dish was Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemon (and olives). The tagine is a ceramic apparatus that is designed to use as little water as possible. Dishes prepared this way are also called tagine. Viewers of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita would remember this from an episode, The Party. Those tagines were large and used for L’Agnello Marocchino (Moroccan Lamb). Annie and señor Mustafá sat down to eat the tasty plates with a refreshing Mint Lemonade. Her heritage showed when she ate the chicken with bread, which looked like Sada Roti, like a true Moroccan. The scenes flowed quite easily not only because señor Mustafá spoke very good English but because Annie proved to be quite an expert in Moroccan cuisine.
We were then introduced to traditional Granadian food at Chikito Restaurante. Its proprietor, señor Luis Oruezábal made sure that they had tapas of Potato Salad and Ham Croquette with beer, before Annie joined Chef José in the kitchen. He showed her how they make the traditional Remojón Granadino (Granadian Cod and Orange Salad with Black Olives). In the same kitchen, Chef Rafael showed Annie Olla de San Antón. Pork ruled this pot, as they used a pig’s tail, ribs, belly/bacon, the feet and face. (Yum!) Quite a contrast from its Jewish roots from the 1400’s as a stew called Dafina that was made in a similar fashion but with kosher beef or lamb. Annie and señor Luis sat at the bar to enjoy the finished products, in addition to a surprise plate, La Tortilla de Sacromonte. This one had an interesting back story, regarding its special ingredients: lamb’s brains and testicles. Once again, our host proved that she’d do anything for food. At least, she didn’t have to dig, herd or risk her life for it.
After a look at the city’s historic Capilla Royal and a fantastic street performer, there was a stop for dessert. Pio Nono was inspired by Pope Pius IX (1792-1878). In line with the history lesson, Annie’s next stop was Mirador de Morayma restaurant with its spectacular view of Alhambra Palace (aka The Red Fortress). I encourage everyone to read the story of the woman who’s the look-out’s namesake. In the kitchen with Chef Carney, our presenter prepared three dishes. Granada is the Spanish word for pomegranate. So their first creation was Granadian Salad, with pomegranates. I’ve never seen hot oil poured onto a salad but that’s what they did. Next was Habas con Jamón (Fava Beans and Ham), which came together rather simply and quickly. Finally, Smoked Sturgeon with Salmorejo which was more a matter of plating since the components were already cooked. The ladies ate on the terrace with the enormous palace as the background. Carney and her fabulous head of hair was a cheery cooking partner for Annie in this segment, even though she didn’t speak a word of English.
While still in Granada, the last food we learned about was Phoenician rather than Moroccan. It was an ancient food preparation method for octopus called Pulpo Seco, in the unassuming Bar FM. Owned by señor Francisco ‘Paco’ Martin and his wife, Rosa; they consistently blow their patrons’ minds with incredible seafood. Annie got a first-hand look at how it’s done in the restaurant’s tiny kitchen. The octopus is cut up and its tentacles hung to dry overnight, just like in ancient times except with a little help from modern technology. That is, an electric fan pointed to the dangling appendages. Freshly dried ones are grilled on a flat top then sliced and added to various dishes. Once again, we saw tried and true techniques that may have been updated a bit but essentially remain the same as always.
I highly recommend that anyone seek out a Moroccan or Lebanese restaurant. The warmth and flavour of the spices will put your taste buds to work. It’s a marvellous combination of flavours from Asia, Africa and Europe. If you’re in Trinidad, do seek out Joseph’s Restaurant in Maraval, Trinidad. I had my first taste of some Mediterranean fusion there and it was wonderful! Once again, this show took us off the beaten path, and it was not only enjoyable but enlightening. The music and visuals supported the city’s old world Arab feel. Indeed, as señor Mustafá said, it seemed to be the closest way one could travel to Morocco, without leaving Granada. However, for the viewers of From Spain With Love, this was the best way to learn about Granada’s cuisine without actually going there. The next episode is Olive Oil: Liquid Gold.