Following on from my last post with information and tips for visiting Essaouira and ways to explore the town, here are some more glimpses of this Moroccan treasure that was once the country’s biggest and most important port:
A vegan version of the classic French Bourguignon; slow cooked whole mushrooms, full of flavour, in a rich red wine sauce.French food isn’t especially known for being vegetarian or vegan friendly, but many casseroles and stews are easily adapted with a little imagination. By slow cooking this dish the flavours can develop and the whole mushrooms soak up the rich flavours of the red wine, thyme and bay leaf.
300g whole closed cup mushrooms, cleaned
300g whole mini Portobello mushrooms, cleaned
1 onion, sliced
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp dairy-free margarine
2 tbsp plain flour
3 cloves garlic, crushed
500ml vegetable stock
250ml red wine
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1. Heat the oil in a lidded saucepan (or the slow cooker insert, if possible) on the hob over a medium high heat. Add the onion and carrots, then cover with the lid and sauté for around ten minutes until they have softened.
2. Add the garlic and dairy-free margarine into the pan. Stir for a minute or two until the margarine has melted. Add the flour and mix well. Place this and all of the remaining ingredients into the slow cooker.
3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Remove the bay leaf and serve with rice or crusty bread.Next month I’m heading to Montpellier and really hope to be able to find some French cuisine I can try (other than bread and cheese that is!) I’d love to hear if anyone has any tips for the city!
P.S. Don’t forget to enter my NibNibs giveaway that runs till October 10th!
Essaouira (‘essa-weera’) lies located on the Western coast of Morocco, encircled by a fortress hugging the Atlantic Ocean. The town presents a more laid-back side of Morocco and in the heat of the summer you can find respite from the inland temperatures; during my visit in July where Marrakech was reaching up to 45C, Essaouira was a full fifteen to twenty degrees cooler. The breeze from the Atlantic blows strong here making the windswept beach a watersport haven (more on that later), whilst the medina is filled with whitewashed buildings and vibrant blue shuttered windows.Getting there: Flights only run to Essaouira airport from France so the if you’re travelling from elsewhere then it is easiest to travel via Marrakech. Buses come and go from an office located just outside of the medina and take three hours with a short stop halfway. Once a day there’s a “comfort plus” bus (100dh one way) that lives up to its name, but for the reasonably short journey the standard ones (70dh) also tend to be in good condition and not over-crowded.Top tip: You will need buy a separate luggage ticket when travelling on the Suprabus. It is only 5 dirhams but you have to ask for it. If travelling from Marrakech to Essaouira, it can be bought from the office next door to the main station.Where to stay: The medina has a host of accommodation options and is the perfect location being filled with cafés and restaurants and easy access to the bus station. Traditional Moroccan riads, a house with a courtyard garden and often a rooftop pool or terrace, stay cool in their interior making them an ideal option if you want something with an authentic feel in the heart of town. I stayed in Caverne d’Ali Baba and would highly recommend it for its beautiful decor, friendly owner and breakfast served on the rooftop with views over the medina.
Ways to Explore Essaouira
Walk the WaterfrontPassing through the souks in the medina, you can reach the old fortress walls. Atop the walls is a wide promenade to stroll along, lined with canons and with views out across the rocks to the ocean. Just along the waterfront from the medina walls is Essaouira’s port and fish market. The mass of blue boats and stunning views looking back on the old town make it a gorgeous spot, but be warned: the smell is something to be reckoned with.A few minutes walk further along the coast is Essaouira’s beach, frequented by both locals and tourists alike. There are a couple of areas with sunbeds to rent or if the wind isn’t too high you can take a towel to the sand. If you are feeling fresh on your feet, you can walk the length of the beach to the sand dunes where there is plentiful opportunity to take a camel ride.
Shop the SouksBursting with treasures waiting to be discovered – and haggled for – the souks are a maze of pedestrianised lanes. The edges are lined with small shops selling pottery, clothing, rugs, artisan wooden crafts and paintings to name a small section of what is on offer. The main streets have a bustling market that runs during the day, a mainstay for the local population.There are also plenty of stores selling argan oil – many of these sell oil produced by women’s collectives set up in rural villages to provide fair incomes and livelihoods. As well as cosmetic argan oil, creams and other products, you can also buy Moroccan oil for food use. The deliciously nutty flavour makes it perfect for salad dressings (expect a recipe one day soon!)Top tip: If you are only travelling with hand luggage on your flight, make sure any oils you buy are within the 100ml limit.
Hit the Waves
Reliable winds and ideal water conditions make Essaouira a top watersports destination with surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing possible all year round. Right through from beginners courses at the beach to more challenging conditions for pros outside of town, there are options for all levels.Instruction is available in English and various other languages through many of the watersports centres. Always check any equipment beforehand and that instructors are fully qualified. Based in Essaouira, Explora is a kitesurf, windsurf and surf centre who are partnered with VDWS, IKO and the Moroccan Surf Federation to make sure that their staff are fully trained and safety standards are high. They offer surfing trips to six destinations in and around Essaouira, including to La Grotte which boasts the biggest waves in the area if you’re feeling confident.
Keep an eye out for more photos and foodie tips that I’ll be sharing in upcoming installments of my Morocco Diary. How do you like to explore a new place?
If you’ve been around here for long, you might have noticed my love of animals and in particular, cats. Well, today I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to my new fluffy little buddy, Tarmigan. He became part of our family a little over a month ago and is a very sociable and loving little fellow. Did I mention how handsome he is?
I also wanted to share these as I’ve been making a conscious effort to improve my technical photography skills lately (more on that in an upcoming post) and feel like I’m getting close to capturing his beauty. Luckily, the new house is blessed with far better natural light than my previous place making it much more possible to shoot indoors.
Tarmigan also has his own Instagram so pop on over and follow him for more cute cat pics!
What are you photographing a lot of at the moment?
A two course meal for two that can be cooked in virtually no time at all; mushrooms cooked in sparkling wine with a tang that cuts through the puff pastry base for a light starter and a simple pasta dish with a velvety sauce, fresh tomatoes and gentle chili kick for a satisfying main.
Self-catering when you’re on a longer trip abroad easily becomes part of your routine and a great way of saving money, but for a holiday when you want to relax a bit more it can seem like a lot of hassle. However, depending on where you are, it can be a helpful way to make sure you get a bit more variety if local vegetarian or vegan options aren’t really up to scratch.
For these occasions, I’ve created two recipes that make an ideal starter and main course for staying in self-catered accommodation. They require very few pieces of equipment, all ingredients are likely to be widely available, and the entire meal can be whipped up from start to finish in no more than thirty minutes and for less than £20.
Some items are used in both the starter and the main to cut down on what you need to buy, whilst still achieving distinctly different flavours in each dish. You could save money even further by buying a full-sized bottle of sparkling wine, using some to cook into the starter and the rest to accompany the meal. Whilst the name of the starter says “Champagne,” I have used Prosecco to make it more affordable (Champagne is just a bit catchier though, isn’t it?).A lot of shop-bought puff pastry is vegan and is one area where it is perfectly acceptable to cheat (no one wants to spend any evening, let alone a holiday evening, brushing sheets of pastry!) I used Jus Rol ready rolled puff pastry and found most of their pastry is vegan.
Once the starter is in the oven, the ingredients for the main can be quickly prepared and put to one side leaving you the opportunity to nibble a few of the olives. As soon as you serve up the starter, the main can go on the hob to cook as you eat as it needs minimal attention. The pasta main all cooks together in one pot; there is no need to drain as the water largely evaporates and the starch from the pasta adds a delicious creaminess to what it is left to form a sauce. It also significantly cuts down on the amount of washing up you’ll have to do at the end!
Starter: Champagne Mushroom Tart (Serves Two)
1/2 sheet of ready-made ready rolled puff pastry (approx. 160g), cut into two
150g closed cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium courgette, thinly sliced
100ml sparkling wine
1tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
Black pepper, to taste
1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C / gas mark 8. Heat the oil in the frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the courgettes and mushrooms and cook for around five minutes or until they have begun to soften.
2. Stir in the garlic and black pepper. Add in 3/4 of the sparkling wine a tablespoon at a time, allowing each one to be absorbed first. Mix in the final 1/4 of the wine and fresh basil leaves, then remove from the heat.
3. Grease the baking tray using a small amount of olive oil and place the two pieces of puff pastry on to it, making sure there is ample space between them as the pastry will expand during cooking. With a knife, criss-cross the base of the pastry, leaving a 1.5cm border around the edges.
4. Scoop the filling onto each piece of pastry. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and turned golden brown. Serve with a sprinkling of extra black pepper and a fresh basil leaf.
Main Course: One-Pot Pasta (Serves Two)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
100g vine tomatoes, halved
500ml boiling water
1tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Handful fresh basil leaves
1tsp black pepper
1-2tsp chili flakes (according to taste)
Olives to serve
1. Add all of the ingredients into a large pan over a medium-high heat. Simmer for ten to twelve minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked al dente and the sauce has thickened.
2. Serve with torn fresh basil and chopped olives on top.
These recipes are my entry in the SACO cooking challenge to create a two course meal for two that could easily be cooked in an apartment kitchen on holiday and for under £20.
Do you ever self-cater on holiday? What would be your quick go-to recipes?