A while ago a friend of mine was sweet enough to send me a copy of a book he thought I’d enjoy, called Mourad: New Morocan by Mourad Lahlou. My friend knows me well because I swooned over this book the instant I opened it.
Image Source: Workman
Mourad’s voice is very real. You can tell he’s one of those people who cook from the heart, without over-thinking or over-complicating things. His book includes a good amount of classic Moroccan favorites (like Basteeya, Merguez, and Couscous), but even his take on classic dishes is somehow reinvented, making everything feel fresh and relevant to the way people want to eat today. And I was so impressed by his trend-setting new recipes inspired by Moroccan cuisine, like Date Leather and Fig Leaf Ice Cream.
Just as much as the recipes, I loved the writing in this book. Explanations are spot-on, recipes are easy to follow, and the stories and anecdotes about life and travel had me not wanting to put this book down. In particular, I was captivated reading Mourad’s introduction to the chapter “Rite of Spring”, his chapter on meats. It hit a personal note with me.
Mourad describes the first time he slaughtered a lamb, in the most eloquent of detail. In Morocco (and other Islamic societies), an animal must be slaughtered in the most humane way possible. He talks about how the day started like any other holiday – sun shining and big family breakfast. The whole family (about 30 people) gathered in the courtyard to witness the ritual, and as it came time, the air became thick and still and Mourad’s grandfather said a prayer of thanks for the animal and the sacrifice it was about to make. Mourad goes on to say that this ritual might seem barbaric; he says “But I’m telling you that it’s the opposite, not simply because the slaughter is done in a humane way, but because the act of witnessing it is a reminder that we can never take a life for granted. When you’ve seen an animal give its life for you, you don’t take it lightly. You cook it with care. You eat it with respect. And perhaps the greater barbarism is never coming face to face with that, and pretending that meat comes from a market, not an animal.”
A couple months ago, my husband Mike (who is a great lover of lamb) took me to a halal butcher to watch a lamb being slaughtered. I really didn’t want to go at first, but I think it’s important to understand where our food comes from, and honestly, I think this is something everyone who eats meat should see at least once. Even so, it isn’t something that is easy to watch and I couldn’t help but silently weep, tears streaming down my face. It is incredibly humbling to watch an animal give its life so you can sustain yours. Anyway, Mourad’s story was just one of the many reasons I fell in love with this book.
The first recipe from the book I tried was Yogurt Mousse, which was lovely. It was similar to Panna Cotta, but a bit lighter and more airy, and with a more complex flavor because of the yogurt. I topped it with fresh figs and raw, local honey and it was the perfect treat to celebrate the Eid.
Eid Mubarak! Wishing everyone a joyous, blessed holiday.