Fruity Moroccan starters

“Zaalouk” is a true all-rounder, you can serve this dish as a salad, as a side dish or as a dip, plus it tastes great warm or at room temperature. It consists mainly of aubergines and tomatoes and has fruity but at the same time earthy aroma.

This flavour combines beautifully with a salad of carrots, cucumbers, oranges and olives that we discovered in an old edition of Nargisse Benkabbou’s cookbook “Casablanca”. Side by side, the two dishes develop wonderful contrasts and make a colourful and flavourful starter.

Preparing zaalook could hardly be easier. In many recipes, the aubergines are treated in very different ways, but we succeed best with the simplest preparation method – we cook all the ingredients at once in a braising pan with a lid.

Some recipes use peeled aubergines, some unpeeled. We recommend removing about half of the peel with a peeler, this way the proportions are most balanced.

Cut the partially peeled aubergines into 3 – 4 cm pieces

We cut the tomatoes in half and remove the stalk, then halve the pieces once or twice more, depending on the size of the tomatoes, i.e. into quarters or eighths. We then remove the seeds and the surrounding jelly with our fingers.

We cover the bottom of a braising pan with about 5 tbsp olive oil and put in the pieces of aubergine and tomatoes. To this we add 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (lay the blade of a knife flat on the peeled clove and hit it once hard with your fist), ½ tbsp honey (vegans can use maple syrup, for example) and the juice of half a lemon.

We also season with a generous teaspoon of smoked paprika (pimentón de la vera), one teaspoon of ground cumin and one or two pinches of cayenne, depending on taste. We are careful with the salt here, adding only a level teaspoon and tasting the dish more precisely towards the end.

We mix it all thoroughly and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat with a lid. After 30 minutes, it looks like this:

Now we mash the vegetables with a potato masher, alternatively you can also use a fork. If the mixture is still too liquid, it can be heated up again without a lid, allowing the liquid to evaporate. Finally, we mix in chopped leaves from a bunch of coriander.

The salad is also very easy to prepare. We start with carrots, cucumber and oranges.

The salad is most beautiful when you cut the carrots and cucumber into fine strips, like tagliatelle. However, you need a really good peeler for this and we recommend the very high-quality model from Microplane. It will serve you well for many years.

Peel and then cut off strips

We immediately put the carrot strips in ice water so that they stay fresh and crunchy.

The cucumber is also peeled and then cut into strips from all sides, leaving only the seeds, which we do not use.

The cucumber strips are so moist that they do not need further treatment

The oranges are also peeled, then we cut out individual segments, which we free from coarser fibres and thicker parts of the white skin.

This takes a few minutes, but the beautiful orange fillets are well worth the effort.

Place in the refrigerator until serving

Finally, we chop walnut kernels and black olives into larger pieces.

The dressing is also very simple: 4 tablespoons of the best olive oil, 2 teaspoons of dried thyme leaves and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice are shaken in a screw-top glass until a homogeneous and slightly milky liquid has formed.

Important: After plating, the cucumber and oranges quickly release much of their liquid. The salad should therefore only be finished at the last moment. To do this, we mix the strips of carrot and cucumber, carefully distribute the orange fillets, walnuts and olives and cover everything with our dressing.

Vibrant and fresh

Enjoy.

And may the taste be with you.

Ingredients (for 4 people as a starter or side dish):

For the Zaalouk:

4 – 5 tbsp. olive oil

2 – 3 aubergines (approx. 500 g)

4 – 5 tomatoes (approx. 400 g)

4 cloves of garlic

½ tbsp honey or vegan substitute

Juice of half a lemon

1 tsp pimentón de la vera

1 tsp ground cumin

A little cayenne to taste

1 bunch fresh coriander


For the salad:

3 oranges

2 – 3 carrots (approx. 200 g)

1 large cucumber

120 g black olives

60 g walnut kernels

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 tbsp lemon juice

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