We’ve posted about the Cafe Clock blog here, including the recipe for its famous camel burger. In this delightful cookbook, Stevens includes recipes from the Cafe Clock as well as some traditional Moroccan dishes that she discovered herself. Her warm, frank tone and the stories that introduce many of the recipes almost bring the reader to the Café and the alleyways of the medina.
The photographs by Julius Honnor tend to be dark and moody, with a still-life quality that highlights Fez ambiance rather than the food. But if you’re interested in getting a good look at the day-to-day of the medina, your armchair curiosity will be satisfied, and your appetite will probably wake up too. The plain blue cover with swirling Arabic calligraphy only hints at the color and richness of this Moroccan recipe collection. With tongue in cheek, we suggest that it might have been richer for another version of Moroccan Love Potion.
The collaboration between the Cafe Clock and Stevens come through Mike Richardson, British ex-pat weary of a career as a successful London maître d’ and searching for a new life in Fez:
“Mike…was determined to create something new. Little did he know…that what he would end up creating would become one of the most important social centres in the city, a true hub for Moroccans, expats and people passing through. Today, Fez without the Café Clock is unthinkable.” So writes Stevens in her introduction.
Richardson hired Moroccan cooks and acquired a business partner. With the cafe’s roaring success in camel hamburgers and seasonal specials based on ingredients from the medina, the time came to put a book together. Stevens, with an idea for a Moroccan cookbook already in her head, considers it serendipitous that Richardson invited her to write it.
The eleven recipe chapters cover breakfast and brunch; burgers and sandwiches; soups; fish; poultry; meat; salads; snacks; desserts; breads, and preserves and condiments.
When the recipes call for very localized ingredients – like camel hump or eggs scrambled with desert truffles from the sub-Sahara – Stevens sensibly suggests Western substitutes. While it’s unlikely that the Western reader will take the trouble to make the paper-thin trid bread, the engaging story and photographs are fun to leaf through. On the other hand, there are four entirely doable ways to bake and eat the basic khobz bread. The recipe for roast lamb mechouia style calls for few ingredients and looks simple to make, but according to the author, it’s dangerously seductive:
“The smell alone of this dish is enough to get you salivating, and by the time it emerges from a slow oven it’s maddening. No wonder it’s traditionally torn apart with the fingers and eaten with no embellishment.”
To waken love, the author recommends adding plenty of dried rose petals to food – even to the camel burgers. To rouse the taste buds, there are recipes for herb and flower-infused salts, charmoula spice mix, and other Moroccan pantry staples.
No less an author than Claudia Roden recommends Clock Book as “delightful” and “evocative.” I add, it’s a foodie’s treasure.
Clock Book by Tara Stevens
Publisher: 33 Books Ltd., England
Moroccan dishes on Green Prophet:
Images from Café Clock cookbook courtesy of 33 Books Ltd.